Tiger Woods was tested early in the first round of the PGA Championship, but through four holes, he's 1-under and just a shot off the early pace set by Robert Garrigus, Rickie Fowler, Steve Stricker and others.
Tiger had his complete game working last week at Firestone, as he kept it between the trees off the tee and then made every birdie or par-saving putt he faced. On the very first hole of the PGA, Woods slammed his lengthy birdie putt from the front edge of the green about 10 feet past the cup, setting up a tester right out of the gate. But the No. 1 player in the world made the comebacker for the save, avoiding the same bogey start that he had at the British Open. At his second hole, No. 11, Woods also needed a moderate length putt to save par and he canned it to stay at even.
Those two early putts have to be a big boost for Tiger, as that's the one area of his game that has prevented him from winning his 15th major. It's almost less about the birdies for Tiger when he wins and more about those fantastic saves from seven feet and beyond. His third hole was a little less stressful, as he put his approach shot in the center of the green for an easy two-putt par.
With three quality pars out at the start, Woods rolled to his first par-5 of the day at No. 14 and promptly picked up his first birdie of the championship. The 14th is a 600-yard monster, but plays even longer and is a true three-shot setup. Tiger didn't even bother trying to go for it in two, taking iron off the tee and then laying up. But with wedge in hand for his third, Woods stuck it to within a foot of the cup for a kick-in birdie. It was a perfectly played hole and Tiger's strategy paid off.
As Tiger demonstrated on No. 14, there are some birdie opportunities out on the course early. A cadre of players are tied for the lead, one shot ahead of Woods at 2-under. Rickie Fowler, the much hyped 24-year-old, was hot early and carded back-to-back birdies at Nos. 12 and 13. On the other end of the age spectrum is Steve Stricker, who is also at 2-under through his first seven holes. Stricker doesn't play much any more, but he continues to show up and contend at the biggest events. Here's a current snapshot of the clustered top of the leaderboard around Woods, Stricker and Fowler: