Golf / Sports

Tiger struggles to 3-over 74 in first round of PGA Championship

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- After calling his play "all right" after his practice round, Tiger Woods paused and smiled.

"It's only Wednesday," he said.

Thursday dawned sunny and muggy but with clouds and isolated showers forecast, possibly prime scoring conditions for the first round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club.

But it didn't work out that way for Woods, who birdied only one hole while enduring four bogeys that resulted in a 3-over 74, placing him in early danger of missing the cut.

"It wasn't very good," Woods said. "A lot of bad shots and I never got a putt to the hole."

Woods, his participation in question until his Wednesday arrival because of his balky back, teed off from No. 10 with Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington. Woods nearly birdied the par-5 opening hole, his putt coming up just short. All three players in the group made par. Woods then bogeyed the par-3 11th hole.

Woods also bogeyed the par-3 14th, but chipped in for birdie on the 16th and was one over through nine holes.

The back nine treated Woods rudely, as bogeys on the first and second holes before making pars the rest of the way.

Woods said his back felt "a little bit stiff" but that he's used to playing with discomfort now. He said he needs to get under par by the conclusion of his second round, which could end Friday or Saturday given the stormy forecast for Friday.

Mickelson, meanwhile, made birdies on Nos. 4, 7 and 9 and finished with a 2-under 69 after a slow start that featured an errant tee shot on his first swing of the round.

"Given the first eight holes, it was a good start," Mickelson said.

Lee Westwood and Kevin Chappell shared the early lead, each firing a 6-under 65. Westwood birdied his final four holes and five of his last six, including a long putt on the par-4 9th, his final hole of the day.

"I played well, hit a lot of fairways, putted nicely," Westwood said. "All in all, there were no real weaknesses."

British Open champ Rory McIlroy got off to a strong start and was 3-under through nine holes.

Woods spent a few minutes practicing swings after several errant approach shots. He also had to check on the gallery when his tee shot at the 14th landed in the first few rows.

"Everybody all right?" Woods asked as he approached his errant shot.

Woods had his injured back tested on the par-5 18th when his tee shot landed in a fairway bunker and created an awkward stance. But Woods exited without incident and parred the hole despite again reacting angrily to an approach shot that didn't meet his standards.

The tournament features striking contrasts between the status of Woods and defending champion Jason Dufner, battling a sore neck, and the scorching recent play of Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler.

McIlroy entered after consecutive victories, including The Open Championship. And Fowler owns top-five finishes in all three of this year's majors.

Matt Kuchar was forced to withdraw due to back spasms. John Huh of Dallas took his spot.

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