Tiger Woods started his first round at the 147th Open Championship with a bang. Two terrific shots from tee to green led to a...

British Open 2018: Tiger Woods fades to score 71, plus more thoughts after Round 1

Tiger Woods started his first round at the 147th Open Championship with a bang. Two terrific shots from tee to green led to a short birdie putt at the first hole, which he drained. It looked easy. Carnoustie looked gettable. But courses like this one on this day, even in “easy” conditions can be a tease, and she proved to be just that as Woods played the final 17 holes.

Another birdie at No. 4, and Tiger tacked his name on the front page of the leaderboard for much of the afternoon and evening in Scotland. A long par save at the 9th seemed to maybe even provide the most energy of all.

147th Open

  • Round 1 breakdown
  • Friday’s schedule

But just as we’ve seen time and time again with Woods since his latest return, he couldn’t hold the momentum. He couldn’t keep his card clean and a few off-target tee shots on the back nine led to bogeys. Woods bogeyed three of his first six holes on the other side of the course and only a monster birdie putt at No. 11 kept him buoyed. Woods shot even-par 71 on the day and is five back of Kevin Kisner’s lead.

“I think it played a little on the quick side out there this afternoon,” Woods told Golf Channel after teeing off in one of the final few groups on Thursday. “The balls were definitely rolling. I thought I played a pretty solid round. Unfortunately, I didn’t take care of both par 5s, and I hit 8-iron into both of them. The round certainly could have been a little bit better.”

That’s certainly true. Tiger made par at the two par 5s he’s referencing, which was disappointing given how far his golf ball was rolling out. Consider this on the 6th hole.

“Speed-wise, [this course is playing] about the same [as when I won at Hoylake in 2006],” said Woods. “These fairways are so much more difficult to hit because they have so much slope in them. This is anything but flat. Quite a few balls are going right down the middle of the fairway and ending up in bad spots. It’s a challenge.”

And yet, Woods hit most of them. The ones he missed, though, led to bogeys. A couple of bunkers collected tee balls on the back side and a missed 4-foot par led to the fade for Big Cat. Just as he said, it could have been better, though, it also could have been worse. Tiger hit monster putts at both No. 9 (for par) and No. 11 (for birdie).

And Tiger did all of this with two thick pieces of tape running up the back of his neck. Apparently, he just slept wrong on a pillow last night, and he said it didn’t affect him at all.  “I’ve been taped up, bandaged up,” said Woods. “It’s just that you were able to see this one. It’s no big deal.”

Depite not playing very well on the back nine on Thursday, Tiger is still very much in the thick of the tournament. He’s just outside the top 25 after 18 holes and only five back of Kisner. It will likely take something massive on Friday when Woods goes at 5:20 a.m. ET. Each of the last nine Open winners was inside the top 15 after Day 1, so Woods will have to buck recent history if has any hopes of major championship No. 15 this week at Carnoustie.

1. The real lead? After the first round, I like to find what I believe are maybe some outliers and determine what the “actual” lead is. This year, 2 under might qualify. That’s where Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Zach Johnson stand after Thursday’s round. The players ahead of them at 3, 4 and 5 under? Zero combined major championships. Maybe one of them gets a first, but I think most (if not all) will roll back to the pack over the final 54.

2. Importance of top 15: In the last 20 years, only four eventual champions have come from outside the top 15 after the first round, and it hasn’t happened at all since Padraig Harrington did it in 2008. 

Here are those four.

  • Padraig Harrington in 2008 — T35 (+4)
  • Todd Hamilton in 2004 — T40 (E)
  • Ernie Els in 2002 — T23 (-1)
  • Mark O’Meara in 1998 — T62 (E)

In addition to this, recent history would say that all but 49 golfers have been eliminated from contention.

3. Kisner’s best round? Kisner was 1 over through five, and then he played the last 13 holes in a brilliant 6 under that included an eagle and four birdies. Most importantly, maybe, he played the nasty final three holes in even par on a day where they were playing more than a stroke over par in the aggregate. This is actually Kisner’s fourth lead or co-lead in the last 13 major rounds after leading the first three rounds of the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow last August. Hopefully for his sake, this one turns out better than that one did. He needed just 22 putts on Thursday.

4. South African success: If you had a trio of South Africans in the top five after Round 1 with none of them named Louis Oosthuizen, Ernie Els or Charl Schwartzel, please raise your hand and collect your prize. Eric Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone and Zander Lombard are all lurking around the lead, and Stone is coming off a massive win last week at the Scottish Open, where he shot 60 in the final round for the trophy. The best part of his day on Thursday? He got in a round at the Old Course at St. Andrews after the 68 he shot at Carnoustie!

5. Different but not necessarily easier: It seems like a 7,400-yard course that’s allowing balls to roll 400 yards (see below) should be easy (or at least than normal), right? Yeah, it wasn’t. Carnoustie played to a 2-over average on Thursday, and Jordan Spieth said that as easy as it was to score … it was still hard.

Weather could not have been more perfect in Scotland throughout the day, and golfers still had some trouble handling the course. Even though it seems like it should be playing easier than, say, in 2007 when the winning score was 7 under, the first-round leader that year was 6 under and 12 players shot in the 60s (compared to 17 on Day 1 this time around). So while concrete fairways seem to lend themselves to closer distances to these greens and more birdie opportunities, that wasn’t always the case on Thursday.

6. What’s the goal? Former Open winner Sandy Lyle went off first on Thursday, and he told Golf Channel what he thinks the winner will eventually land at. “I think right now it’s going to be at least 12 under,” said Lyle after shooting 4-over 75. “I don’t think it will be less than that. I’m going to put my finger and say 15 [under] will be the maximum.” 

Later on, Spieth, who shot 1-over 72, said, “3 under par scores could be good enough.”

The takeaway: Nobody has any better idea of how the rest of this week is going to go after 18 holes than they did before 18 holes.

7. Koepka’s turnaround: U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka drove the first green and made birdie on Thursday. He made five more throughout his round but still shot 1-over 72. That’s because he shot a 41 (!) on the front nine before recovering with a 31 (!) on the back. It was an unbelievable rebound that included a “go get that” to his caddie a la Spieth.

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