Woods endures sluggish, painful start at Merion
By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press
ARDMORE, Pa. -- Tiger Woods said his left wrist was fine. It's his game that was hurting him Thursday in the U.S. Open.
Woods finished only 10 holes in the rain-delayed first round at Merion, spending far too much time trying to gouge out of the thick rough with a wedge. On at least four occasions, he was either flexing or shaking his left hand after the forceful shots.
He was 2 over par when play was suspended because of darkness, leaving him about a 4-foot par putt on the 11th hole when he returns at 7:15 a.m. ET on Friday.
It was probably a good time for Woods to stop.
He pulled his tee shot with an iron well left of the 11th fairway, and only the thick grass kept it from going into the creek. He took another powerful hack out of the rough to clear the winding creek that fronts the green, and then played a flop shot from the rough to 4 feet.
When a USGA official mentioned that his wrist appeared to be a problem, Woods replied, "It's fine."
With a better forecast the rest of the week, Woods will play 25 full holes on Friday and try to make up ground on the leaders. Phil Mickelson completed his round of 67, while Luke Donald was at 4 under and approaching the difficult, five-hole finish.
"I've got a lot of holes to play tomorrow," Woods said. "And hopefully, I can play a little better than I did today."
Woods has gone five years without winning a major, though his four PGA Tour wins in eight starts indicates that his game is in good shape.
As he's done in other majors, Woods began with poor tee shot that found the rough on the gentle, opening hole at Merion. He grimaced after digging into the gnarly rough to hack out to the fairway and started with a bogey.
The key to Merion is to hang on for the opening six holes, take advantage of the short stretch of holes in the middle, and try not to give back shots at the end. After that six-hole start, Woods had one par, two birdies and three bogeys. Two of the bogeys came from poor chip shots from just off the green at No. 3 and No. 5. What saved him was a 50-foot birdie putt on the sixth hole.
But he failed to convert birdie chances on the seventh, eighth and 10th holes -- all of them under 400 yards -- and he three-putted the 237-yard ninth hole from about 65 feet to drop another shot.
"It's going to be a fast night," Woods said as he left the course.