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Tiger Woods struggles with putter to open PGA Championship

Tiger Woods gets almost nothing out of his first nine holes at Whistling Straits, and yet it is an improvement from what we've watched at the last two majors.

Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Relative to what we've seen this summer, Tiger Woods’ ball-striking was solid through his first nine holes of the PGA Championship on Thursday. But he could get almost nothing going with his putter.

The 14-time major champion, who has struggled mightily with his driver, didn't hit them all well with the big stick off the tee, missing a couple of fairways to the right. But he was able to minimize the damage by finding his first seven greens -- which is where it all went awry.

What befell Tiger on the par-4 14th was a microcosm of his early struggles with the flat stick. A fairway metal left his golf ball sitting down in the first cut left of the fairway and just 110 yards from the cup. A wedge from 110 yards gave him a 56-footer that traversed hills and valleys on the severely undulating green. But it was a four-footer that went low and barely glanced at the cup that could have been a morale killer.

That led to Tiger's first dropped shot of the week.

Two holes later, though, on the par-5 16th, he finally drained his first birdie putt from just under three feet -- and that, after missing the fairway wide right again with a driver.

After getting back to even par, Woods appeared in danger of dropping the shot he had just gained by flailing his tee ball on the 223-yard par-3 17th into a bunker fronted by a mountain of rough.

A spectacular shot from the sand and a seven-foot putt saved par.

Woods was able to keep things together thanks to fairway metals off the tee. With the four-time winner of this tournament looking for positives anywhere he can find them, the fact that he did not bogey his first hole of a tournament had to count for something. He's become notorious for starting every tournament, especially majors, with a bogey. He made pars on his first three holes that had to be a positive start compared to what we've watched recently -- even if they came on the easiest holes on the course.

Woods did, however, make his turn with a disappointing bogey. It was not his driver that let him down on No 18. His third drive of the day hit the fairway but he yanked an iron way right and into another bunker, which led to a two-putt bogey 6 and 1-over after nine holes.

He heads to his second nine playing better than what we've seen at the last two majors, but he's still six shots behind early leader Hideki Matsuyama.


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