|Tiger Woods didn’t blow his top after a 74, his highest round ever at Firestone. (Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters)|
Not even one of his favorite golf courses is much use to Tiger Woods these days.
Facing the two easiest holes to start his round, he hit tee shots into the trees and made bogeys. On the course where he has won seven times in his last nine appearances, he posted a 4-over 74 for his highest score ever at Firestone. That put him 10 shots behind Bubba Watson, the largest first-round deficit Woods has faced since he returned at the Masters.
And it didn’t get any better when he finished yesterday in the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio.
As he took the 100-yard walk to the scoring trailer, one spectator called out to Woods, “You’re washed up, Tiger. Give it up.’’
Woods, sporting a goatee but rarely a smile, offered no excuses.
“Only thing I did good today is I kept my patience out there,’’ he said.
It was another example of Woods at war with his game, even on golf courses where he once won with regularity.
He collapsed early in the final round at Pebble Beach, where he had won the US Open by 15 shots the last time it was there. He was never a factor at St. Andrews, where he had won the British Open twice by a combined 13 shots. His dominance is even more defined at Firestone, where he had never shot worse than 72, where he had never finished worse than fifth.
Instead, the day belonged to a guy who had never been here.
Watson made his debut at Firestone by running off four straight birdies on the back nine and making a long putt on the final hole for a 6-under-par 64 and a two-shot lead over a group that included Masters champ Phil Mickelson and US Open champ Graeme McDowell.
“I was impressed about Tiger Woods having seven wins here,’’ Watson said about seeing the South Course for the first time earlier in the week. “But with Tiger’s wedge game, and his putter is phenomenal, I can see where he could win.’’
That was hard to imagine on a muggy, breezy afternoon in northern Ohio.
“Just because I like the golf course doesn’t mean I’m going to play well on it,’’ Woods said, who hit only five fairways and took 32 putts. “You still have to execute, and I didn’t do that.’’
Two drives into the trees. Two shots to get out of a bunker. Putts that really didn’t scare the hole. When he rolled in an 8-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole, he turned in two directions and bowed to the gallery.
The course wasn’t much of a problem for so many others.
McDowell finished with four straight birdies for a 66. Mickelson was trying to keep his momentum with a par toward the end of his round when he hit a flop shot that dropped in for birdie on the sixth, and then he added two birdies on his last three holes for a 66.
Adam Scott, who played bogey-free, and Kenny Perry also were at 66. The group at 67 included Jeff Overton, who finished second last week at the Greenbrier when Stuart Appleby closed with a 59.
Twenty-five players from the 81-man field broke par.
PGA — Rory Sabbatini and Omar Uresti shot 7-under 65s and were tied for the lead in the rain-delayed first round of the Turning Stone Resort Championship at Verona, N.Y.
Sabbatini and Uresti were one stroke in front of Brad Faxon, Brian Davis, Steve Elkington, and Alex Cejka.
Because of a weather delay of nearly three hours, 24 players did not complete the first round. Fifteen-year-old Gavin Hall of Pittsford, N.Y., shot a 6-over 78 in his debut on the PGA Tour.
Junior PGA — Cassy Isagawa won the 35th Junior PGA Championship with a par putt on the third playoff hole.
The 16-year-old resident of Wailuku, Hawaii, defeated Ginger Howard of Bradenton, Fla., in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Denny McCarthy of Burtonsville, Md., won the boys event by shooting a 69 to finish at 9 under. He was three strokes better than 2008 champion Anthony Paolucci.