No one tops it on the range, not even Tiger Woods. In the post-apocalypse of the morning after Woods was calm itself, chatting to caddie Joe LaCava about the game last night, or something like that.
The balls behaved as directed, exemplary draws with the irons, dense explosions off the face with the driver. All was as it should be. But, as we know, beneath the level of appearances little is right in the professional world of the player who changed the game.
The fourth 80 of his career, his third this year, his second this month, was a new watershed, utterly shocking in scale. Only Rickie Fowler – and what a day he chose to bury a bad round – with his 81 and Rich Berberian Jnr (83), a club pro from Windham Country Club, New Hampshire, closed day one below him.
Woods began the 115th US Open Championship with a pair of bogeys and gradually got worse. There was a flying club out of the long grass when woefully out of position at the eighth, a treble bogey seven at the 14th, where he hacked from one hazard to another, and the pièce de résistance, the topped fairway wood at 18 that sent the ball scuttling along the deck into a bunker intended in this setting only for decoration.
Course architect Robert Trent Jones Jnr never envisaged one professional ball finding that particular trap. It is a devilish device to snare the high-handicapper for whom this public links is a natural habitat.
“The deepest hole I’ve ever seen,” said Butch Harmon, Woods’ first professional coach. He was talking about his former client as well as the geography of the terrain.
Greg Norman, observing in his new role as pundit for host broadcaster Fox TV, had by then run out of exasperation. “I see a guy who is totally lost; he does not have a go-to shot,” Norman said. “When you are a great player and you go through a bad spell, it is usually a minor adjustment you need to get your game back into place, but Tiger needs to make major adjustments.”
You might say there was a degree of interest when Woods walked from the range to the 10th tee to begin his second round. In the group ahead, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day were hard on the tail of the leaders, three back on two under par, and Justin Rose, needing to get a move on at two over.
Woods didn’t even have survival on his mind. On this track, a veritable can of worms on the greens and lethal for any off line, he was playing only for pride.
The day dawned grey, in keeping with the mood and the kit he chose, flannels and sweater the colour of gun metal.
At least he had the best of the conditions. The course is tricky enough and long, but the greens are struggling to present an even challenge. The afternoon starters complained about the patchy nature and sketchy pace, caused by the invasion of poa annua, or bluegrass, on greens designed for fescue.
Spieth and Rose took immediate advantage of the freshly cut putting surface with opening birdies. Woods, from the fairway, carved his second into the long stuff, almost falling on his backside as he hacked out. A bogey was the result.
And so began another day of bump and grind, of hitting and hoping, of keeping everything crossed for an outcome that might spare him the embarrassment and mortification of Thursday. A score, any score, that did not begin with an eight would do.Reuse content