Woods’ woes, no longer helped by means of a chilly putter, have been a a ways cry from enjoying spouse Brooks Koepka, the protecting champion, who stormed to a seven-under 63 — one off the all time primary report set by means of Branden Grace within the Open at Royal Birkdale in 2017 — to set a searing tempo.
Koepka has received 3 of his closing seven majors and beat Woods to the PGA identify closing 12 months sooner than completing 2d as the previous international No.1 clinched his 5th Inexperienced Jacket closing month.
Whilst Koepka coasted, Woods’ spherical started in ignominious style with a double bogey courtesy of short-game problems after beginning on the 10th.
The 43-year-old steadied the send and collected a birdie at the 15th, his 6th, sooner than any other double bogey by way of the sand at the 17th took him to the flip in three-over 38.
A brace of birdies beginning the again 9 after which an eagle 3 on the signature par-five fourth to get to 1 below seemed Woods had in spite of everything shaken off the rust after most effective enjoying 9 holes in observe this week. “I were given just a little bit unwell, so I determined to stick house,” he later advised journalists.
However the international No.6, who nonetheless has to control his again after spinal fusion surgical treatment in April 2017, dropped a shot on the 5th and two extra on the 7th and 8th, his 16th and 17th, throwing his head again in annoyance as any other makeable putt stayed out.
“It wasn’t as blank as I might love to have it, needless to say,” Woods, who received the USA Open at Bethpage in 2002, advised journalists after his spherical.
“Were given it again below par for the day, and let a pair slip away with a pair dangerous putts and a pair errors on the finish.”
He added: “I felt find it irresistible’s no longer that tough to make bogeys out right here, however it is exhausting to make birdies.”
‘Focal point on me’
The tough Koepka was once on cruise keep an eye on along the spluttering Woods, proceeding the place he left off on Lengthy Island after profitable the USA Open at Shinnecock Hills closing June.
Armed with a potent putter, he picked up 3 birdies at the entrance 9 and 3 extra coming house for a fuss-free spherical in spite of the clamor surrounding Woods.
“You already know, it was once nice that Tiger received Augusta, however I imply, we are at a brand new week now,” Koepka advised a information convention after his spherical. “I have simply were given to move in the market and concentrate on me.
“You already know what you’ll get whilst you play with him. I imply, clearly everyone in New York goes to be cheering for him, and it will be loud, particularly if he makes a putt. You’ve got simply were given to stay scuffling with and give you the chance to get thru it.”
Get thru it he did, after which some.
“That was once one of the crucial easiest rounds I have performed more than likely as a certified. This golfing direction is brutal,” he added.
The 3rd member of the big name trio was once Italy’s Francesco Molinari, who held off a charging Woods to win the Open at Carnoustie closing 12 months sooner than seeing his hopes of repeating the feat at Augusta sink within the water of Rae’s Creek in entrance of the quick 12th at the ultimate day.
However Molinari additionally struggled to stay alongside of Koepka and coupled Woods’ 72.
Alternatively, his illustrious Ryder Cup spouse Tommy Fleetwood — the pair have been nicknamed MoliWood in Paris — carded a three-under 67 to steer the chasing pack, simply as he did in the back of the American at Shinnecock.