Tiger Woods almost rebounded from a ghastly start to his suspended opening round at Doral, but after finishing with a water-logged bogey on the final hole of Friday’s morning round, the only thing we know about the world No. 1 is that he won’t get bounced from this week’s no-cut WGC-Cadillac Championship.
Woods, Adam Scott, and Henrik Stenson, starting on the 11th tee on Friday to finish up their weather-delayed first round, put on a clinic of how not to win a golf tournament. Indeed, with the top ranking in golf up for grabs should Scott come in first and Woods finish outside the top five, the world’s top three played as if they were allergic to fairways and greens, with Woods finishing at 4-over 76 and Scott just one shot better. It was Tiger's worst round ever at Dora (24 rounds at the Cadillac Championship and 16 at the Ford Championship at Doral), where he has four career wins:
Tiger's 76 is his worst career score at #Doral and just his fourth round over par in 44 rounds here.— Brian Wacker (@pgatour_brianw) March 7, 2014
The marquee threesome arrived at Donald Trump’s revamped Blue Monster for the 8:45 a.m. ET restart after thunderstorms and then darkness halted play on Thursday with Scott four shots up on Woods. Tiger, who is battling a balky back after withdrawing from the final round of last week’s Honda Classic and receiving treatment all week, tried to hand the lead to Scott with a double and two bogeys in his first four holes of the day to slump to 6-over.
Woods was clearly not pleased with his game, especially after making the double on the par-5 14th, with his tee shot in the middle of the fairway, as he angrily slammed his club into his bag after needing two shots from the green-side bunker. Here's his first attempt, when he made the common but unforgivable mistake of leaving it in the sand:
Woods’ spectacularly sloppy play raised speculation among the Twitter crowd about the immediate future for the 14-time major champion who, if his back can power through the pain of his woeful game, was slated to be in Miami through Sunday.
Eldrick Woods, +5 through 14 holes. To WD or not to WD, that is the question. He still has the second 18 to play today.— Anthony Pioppi (@AnthonyPioppi) March 7, 2014
Back spasm WD alert. Double bogey for Tiger at 14th. Now +6. Ouch.— Paul Mahoney (@paulmahoneygolf) March 7, 2014
Woods, who declined to speak with the media between rounds, seemed to hold back on shots off the tee and appeared to lean on his driver after hitting it on the 16th hole, according to Golf Channel's Rex Hoggard. Hoggard also reported that Woods made a beeline for the fitness trailer after coming off the course, so stay tuned.
Meanwhile, the 2013 Masters champ played as if he wanted nothing to do with the position he has coveted since he was a kid. Starting the day just one shot back of early clubhouse leader Harris English, Scott carded an immediate double on the par-4 11th and added another six on the par-4 14th to go with two bogeys and a par.
Perhaps sensing an opening, Woods made three consecutive birdies on 15, 16, and 17 to get back to 3-over and a shot behind the scuffling Scott, who bogeyed 15 and birdied the 16th.
Then came the the 18th, where Woods found the water on his way to a final bogey. Scott was unable to take advantage, carding his own bogey heading into the second round, slated to start at 11:44 a.m. Here's Tiger's scorecard, where only a jarred 25-foot par-saving putt at No. 12 resulted in some bland shade of gray on his colorful back nine (via PGATour.com):
It was certainly not the ballyhooed battle for No. 1 the golf world had anticipated.
As for Stenson (1-over), he may be No. 3 in the world, but he was the third wheel in the contest-within-a-contest taking place between his playing partners. The winner of last year’s FedExCup and Race to Dubai titles contributed to his growing highlight reel, adding a double on No. 14 to Thursday’s most spectacular shank perhaps in the history of golf.
Tiger on his way to double from fairway. Stenson in water I didn't know was in play on 14. Adam bouncing shots off palm trees. #marchmadness— Doug Ferguson (@dougferguson405) March 7, 2014
In other action, Rory McIlroy bounced back from his final-round Honda collapse to score a 70 and sit two shots behind 18-hole leader Patrick Reed -- just two of 14 golfers under par in the opener marked by heavy rain on Thursday and a tricky wind on Friday.
"Going back out there this morning, playing the last three-and-a-half, four holes at 1-under par was a pretty good effort. I’m happy," McIlroy told Golf Channel after finding five of 14 fairways and 10 of 18 greens in regulation but needing only 27 putts. "I made plenty of birdies in that round and a few too many mistakes, but it’s a solid opening round in pretty tricky conditions with the wind."