U.S. Open: Tiger Woods Struggles to Find His Groove at Merion

Woods sits six shots behind leader Luke Donald

tiger woodsARDMORE, Pa — Everything you needed to know about Tiger Woods’ day at the 113th playing of the U.S. Open in this quaint little college town, on this historic little puzzle of a golf course happened with one decision.

Given the option to finish out their holes as play was suspended 8:16 p.m, most players did so. Not Tiger. With a 5-footer left on hole No. 11 for a par, Woods elected to finish the hole tomorrow when play commences at 7:15 Friday morning. A rain delay lasted over three hours. (The former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel said he played Angry Birds.)

Sure, it may have been too dark, too risky to read a putt to save par at a major; after all, every par in this championship, the players say, is like making a birdie almost anywhere else. But you could also interpret Tiger’s decision to leave the putt for tomorrow as an indication he wanted to put this day behind him. Right then. As quickly as possible.

If you gave him truth serum, he’d probably admit that it wasn’t just because of his play. The usually stoic Woods, the No. 1 player in the world, is playing in a group with Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott, the No. 2 and 3 players in the world, respectively. While used to the spotlight, he’s probably not used to playing in a group with former caddie Steve Williams, who has had less than flattering remarks to say about Tiger since the pair split in 2011. Players involved have downplayed the impact of the pairing, but there’s no denying that, for Tiger, it’s just different.

It showed a bit in his play on Thursday. He started shakily, making bogey, birdie, bogey, par to start the round. The rain came again at No. 5, causing about a 30-minute delay. After cutting a shot through some thick rough on five, he appeared to injure his wrist, ringing it as if to shake it off.

But it wasn’t all bad from there, injury or not. Woods moved to 1-over on the par-4 487-yard No. 6, draining an outright bomb that appeared to about a 55-footer. He smiled.

But it was probably his last of the day.

At 1-over, Tiger had to settle for par on No. 8 after missing a makeable birdie putt that would have gotten him to even par. He three-putted No. 9 for bogey. The next hole was even worse: his 7-foot birdie putt lipped out and he had to settle for another par.

“It’s going to be a fast night,” he reportedly said when approached for comment about his round. Woods suggested that the long delay in the start of his round is “kind of the way the Tour has been this year. We’ve had a lot of bad weather this year and this is the way it’s been.”

The leader when play was suspended was Luke Donald, who made birdies on No. 1, No. 3, and Nos. 11, 12 and 13. He stands at 4-under. Phil Mickelson, who flew out to California for his daughter’s graduation and, according to one report, arrived here without a driver in his bag, finished with an opening-round 67.

“I’ve got a lot of holes to play tomorrow,” he said. “And hopefully I can play a little better than I did today.”

After Tiger finishes No. 11 on Friday morning, he has seven more holes before starting his second. In all, he’ll play 24 holes of golf.

He’s hoping that number — a day — will make all the difference in his game.

ACROSS THE WEB