Golf

Tiger Woods rides new putter into contention at 2020 PGA Championship

Golf

By his standards, it wasn't the prettiest day, but Tiger Woods, as he has so often in his storied career, made something out of nothing. 

Woods carded an opening-round 2-under-par 68 Thursday at the 2020 PGA Championship at Harding Park making five birdies to go along with three bogeys and put himself in contention early at the year's first major championship.

The 15-time major champion, who was paired with Rory McIlroy and world No. 1 Justin Thomas, opened his round with a birdie at the Par-5 10th hole. Three holes later, he poured in a 33-foot birdie putt on No. 13 to move to 2-under. A bogey on No. 14 dropped Woods to 1-under. He would close his first nine with four straight pars to make the turn in 34.

After another bogey at No. 2 dropped him back to even, Woods, ripped off three birdies in four holes to get to 3-under with two holes to play. A wayward tee shot on the Par-3 eighth hole caused him to drop a shot before closing his round with a par on No. 9 to finish with a 2-under-par 68. All in all, Woods was pleased with his round and finds himself three shots back of leader Jason Day after the morning wave.

"I thought anything today in the red was going to be good," Woods said after his round. "The way the forecast was, it was supposed to lift today and get a little more windy. I think the winds are supposed to be 17 to 20 -- that was the forecast this morning. I felt like if I shot something in the red, I would be right there because the conditions were going to be tough this afternoon for the guys. I was able to do it. I didn't think there were that many guys at 4-under or better, but the greens were soft this morning. 

 

"If you drove the ball in play, you could get the ball close to some of these flags."

Woods owes his success on the greens Thursday to a new Scotty Cameron putter, which he inserted into his bag prior to the tournament. It's a putter he has been working with for over a year. One that lessens the stress on his fused back. After a year on the shelf, Woods thought it was time to put that putter in his bag, and you can't argue with how he rolled it Thursday.

"Most of the guys on the Champions Tour have gone to longer putters as they have gotten older, because its easier to bend over, or not bend over," Woods said. "And so this putter is just a little bit longer and I've been able to spend a little bit more time putting. It's also very similar to my sand wedge. I putt with my sand-wedge all the time at home. I like the feel in my right hand. I like blading putts and hitting the ball in the equator. Not unusual for me to be messing around with something a bit longer. 

"Felt like I was able to spend the time putting again and log in time, and felt like I was able to get ready for this event."

Woods benched the putter he's won 14 of his 15 majors with in favor of the new Scotty, and it's hard to argue with the results as Woods had his best strokes gained: putting performance since January.

The four-time PGA champion hasn't hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy since 2007. But he has put himself in position to be a factor at TPC Harding Park come the weekend.