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A miracle for Tiger: Cooling off at Southern Hills
If you thought the only way to cool off at sweltering Southern Hills was to stand in front of one of those mist fans on the course, think again. Better yet, think Tiger Woods, who was red hot before cooling off en route to settling for an opening 1-over 71.
By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
TULSA, Okla. -- Early in the first round of the 89th PGA Championship, it was hard to tell what was hotter -- the sun beating down on a plush Southern Hills Country Club, or world No. 1 Tiger Woods.
But when it was over, it was clear that the sun was going to win that debate -- at least on this day.
Woods, coming off an impressive eight-shot win at last week's World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and trying to hunt down his 13th major championship title, came out blazing on Thursday with three birdies in his first six holes.
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Just when it looked like he was going to run away from the field straight out of the gate, his momentum came to a screeching halt. After shooting 2-under 33 on his first nine holes -- he started on the back nine -- Woods struggled with four bogeys and just one birdie on the front for an opening round of 1-over-par 71.
What happened after the quick start?
"I don't know," said a sweat-drenched Woods after his round in temperatures that peaked at 100 degrees. "I felt like I hit the ball better than my score indicates, which is good. That's a good sign heading into the next three days. [I] just need to clean up my round a little bit."
Woods has never won a major championship on a par-70 course. The last time a major was played here at Southern Hills was the 2001 U.S. Open, where he finished in a tie for 12th, halting his streak of consecutive major wins at four.
As expected, he took advantage of the only two par 5s at Southern Hills on Thursday -- Nos. 5 and 13 -- where he recorded two of his four first-round birdies.
The birdie at No. 5 was remarkable, as Woods reached the 653-yard beast in two shots after smashing a 3-wood from 286 yards to within 15 feet of the cup before two-putting for birdie.
"I was just trying to roll the ball in the gap in the right bunker," he said. "To be honest with you, I should have probably been in the right bunker because hugging the right side, it kicked left and everything tilts left-to-right so it should have gone in the right bunker. But kicking a little bit left and up the hill, you know, perfect."
That would be the last birdie of the round for Woods before going on to bogey two of his final three holes.
"The back nine, I missed a couple shots, and also the wind was a little hard to gauge on that back nine," he said. "It was swirling all over the place. Cost me definitely one shot for sure."
The worst start for Woods in a major that he's gone on to win was a first-round, 2-over-par 74 at the Masters in 2005 where he beat Chris DiMarco in a playoff. Other than that, he has never won a major when shooting an over-par score on the first day.
Woods' first-round score at Southern Hills in 2001 was a 4-over-par 74. He said the greens are far more consistent at the course this week than they were six years ago.
"They are a lot better," he said. "We have 18 greens running at the same speed, which is nice."