Tiger Woods returned to the scene of his most complete triumph on Thursday, but Pebble Beach wasn’t in a nostalgic mood.
Ten years after his epic 15-shot US Open triumph here in 2000, Woods couldn’t manage one birdie in a three-over opening round 74 of the 2010 edition of the championship.
“It was so bouncy out there,” Woods said of Pebble Beach’s poa annua greens. “It is what it is. It’s poa in the afternoon and they’re fast.”
Certainly Pebble Beach was tough on almost everyone Thursday. Three players — Paul Casey, Shaun Micheel and Brendon de Jonge — shared the lead on two-under 69. Half-a-dozen more were at one-under.
As he battled his way around, Woods said, there were no wistful memories of his six-under first-round effort a decade ago, which launched the unprecedented “Tiger Slam” that made him the first to hold all four Major titles at once.
“This year is this year,” Woods said. “Don’t forget this is a completely different design, a complete redo from when we played.
“The holes are much different and the bunkering is much different. A few of the tees are totally different.”
Woods, too, is different, after a scandal that sent his personal life into turmoil. He is playing just his fifth tournament of the year, having missed the cut in one and pulled out of another with a sore neck.
On the plus side, Woods said, he was able to execute his shots the way he wanted to, something that hasn’t always been the case to date in his abbreviated season.
“I felt like I played very consistent, very patient, and I hit a lot of shots how I wanted to hit them,” he said. “And placed the ball in the correct spots.”
Woods received a warm welcome on the first tee and said the crowds following him “were fantastic”.
He acknowledged he heard the heckler at nine, but said it didn’t put him off his stride.
“No, God, no,” said Woods, who bogeyed nine, 16 and 18.
The problem wasn’t the gallery, Woods insisted, but the greens.
“I played in the morning on the practice rounds and they were great,” Woods said of the putting surfaces. “This afternoon they were not.”
In fact, the three players who shared the lead all had afternoon tee times.
Tom O’Toole, chairperson of the US Golf Association competitions committee, said the greens were exactly as expected from the poa annua grass.
“While there may be some criticism from some players about the bumpiness of the greens, that’s a little bit of the nature of the beast to what you have at Pebble Beach.
“I think that they have been as good as they have ever been for our national championship here.” — AFP