Poor approach shots, spotty putting highlight Tiger Woods’ opening round at 2024 U.S. Open

Photo: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Tiger Woods had a little bit of good, a little bit of bad and a lot of meh during his opening round Thursday of the 2024 U.S. Open.

The three-time U.S. Open champion opened in 4-over 74 on Thursday morning at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina, a place his worst finish is T-3 in two previous starts.

Woods made birdie on his first hole and was tied for the lead throughout points of the morning, but struggles approaching the green, and throughout the middle of the round on them, resulted in a string of bogeys that slowly dragged him down the leaderboard.

“This golf course is all about the greens. The complexes are just so difficult and so severe that, I mean, I think 1-under par is only in fifth. There aren’t that many scores that are low,” he said after his round. “It’s hard to get the ball close. In most golf courses you play, you hit shots into where it’s feeding off of slopes into flags, whereas collecting. Here everything is repelling. It’s just hard to get the ball on top of the shelves.

“You know if you miss it short side, it’s an auto bogey or higher. Being aggressive to a conservative line is I think how you need to play this particular golf course.”

Woods started on the par-5 10th, and after a brilliant pitch from the native area he buried a birdie putt to begin his day. Then it was a string of five bogeys in seven holes, starting on No. 16, to move him to 4 over thru 13.

However, Woods had an eagle putt on the par-5 fifth before knocking in an easy birdie. He added another bogey on the eighth before a great up-and-down on the par-3 ninth to conclude his opening round.

Woods’ issue Thursday was his approach shots. He hit 12 of 14 fairways and was great off the tee. He hardly gave himself any opportunities for birdie with poor approach shots that often leaked high and right, leaving him constantly grinding for pars. That’s not surprising at a U.S. Open, but plenty of the mistakes seemed avoidable.

His putting was great to start, struggled in the middle and then at the end was so-so. Competitive rust is likely still a thing, and especially in his first U.S. Open round since 2020 at Winged Foot, there’s no surprise there were some up and downs.

Tiger isn’t out of it. He’ll need to sure up the approaches on Friday and make a few more putts to make the cut, but he’s not far off from what could’ve been an even-par or 1-over performance on Thursday.

“I’m physically getting better as the year has gone on. I just haven’t been able to play as much because I just don’t want to hurt myself pre, then I won’t be able to play in the major championships,” he said. “It’s pick your poison, right? Play a lot with the potential of not playing, or not playing and fight being not as sharp.”

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