Only a late-round rally lifted Tiger Woods to one-over par 73 that left the former world No. 1 feeling “beat up” after the first round of the Memorial on Thursday.
Woods, who has plunged to 172nd in the world rankings and hasn’t won a tournament since August of 2013, got off to a dismal start in the Jack Nicklaus-hosted tournament he has won five times.
He teed off on 10 at Muirfield Village and played his first nine holes in four-over par 40, making the turn after a double-bogey at the par-four 18th where he hit his drive out of bounds.
He righted the ship with three birdies and no bogeys on his inward run, but was well off the clubhouse lead of eight-under par.
“Physically, I feel good. Mentally I feel beat up,” said Woods, who is playing his fifth tournament of 2015 and just his second since coming back from a self-imposed absence from competition at the Masters in April.
“That grind is so hard. To turn that round around like I did today … That was hard.”
With the US Open a fortnight away, the 14-time major champion is still tinkering with his swing, implementing changes with instructor Chris Como even since his last tournament, the Players Championship, in May.
Woods remained optimistic that the changes would pay off in the long run.
“I’ve gone through phases like this, rounds like this, where yeah, it’s easy to revert back and go ahead and hit some old pattern,” he said. “But it doesn’t do you any good going forward.
“And when it turns, I’ve had periods where I’ve played good for four or five years, where I’ve won close to 20 tournaments in that stretch.”
Woods has never missed the cut at Memorial in 14 prior starts.
But he hit only four of 14 fairways and nine of 18 greens on Thursday.
Woods was missing in both directions. He was in the left rough off the 10th tee, and found water to the left with his approach at 11.
At 13 he was right, right again on 17 and at 18 so far right as to be out of play.
“I was just trying to stay committed to what we’re working on, to what we’re doing,” he said.
“I hit it awful, yeah. So what? I was going to go through this phase and stick with it, keep sticking with it. And some of the shots I hit were really, really good, but then I also had some really bad shots, too. And we need to work on that too and omit the bad ones.”