Tame Tiger shows up again
Johns Creek - Tiger Woods made a strong start at the PGA Championship, even grabbing a share of the lead.
Then Bad Tiger showed up again at Atlanta Athletic Club.
Woods squandered three early birdies with a pair of double bogeys, his ball landing in water and sand seemingly as much as on grass. It was the sort of erratic play that has kept him winless in the majors for more than three years.
Bubba Watson, who lost to Martin Kaymer in a playoff at last year's PGA, was tied for early lead with Steve Stricker at 4-under par.
Starting on the back side, Woods birdied his first hole by driving into the fairway - no guarantee these days - and rolling in an 18-foot putt. He put his name at the top of the board with two more birdies at the 12th and the 14th, the latter resulting from a massive drive, then an approach that spun back within 3 feet of the flag.
Then, trouble arrived for Woods at the 253-yard 15th, the longest par-3 hole on the course.
He went with an iron but turned away as soon he hit the tee shot, the ball plopping into the pond that runs along the right side of the hole. He wound up making a double bogey.
At the 16th, a wild drive led to more problems. Woods landed in a fairway bunker to the right, knocked his approach into the gallery on the left, flopped it into another bunker and settled for a bogey.
Woods took another double bogey at the brutal 18th after plugging his tee shot in, yes, another bunker. He could only gouge it out, found more sand with his third shot and failed to get up-and-down from there.
He made the turn with a 2-over 37.
At least Woods was faring better than Japanese star Ryo Ishikawa, thought to be a contender coming off a strong showing at Firestone last week. The 19-year-old should have brought his swimsuit, putting six balls in the water in his first 12 holes.
Ishikawa was a staggering 13-over, pretty much assured of missing the cut before much of the field even got on the course.
Watson was looking for the biggest win of his career after nearly winning this tournament a year ago at Whistling Straits. Of course, both Watson and Kaymer were overshadowed by a guy who wasn't even in the playoff.
Dustin Johnson led by a stroke going to the 72nd hole and appeared to be part of a three-way playoff after making bogey. Then, PGA of America officials ruled that he grounded his club in a ragged patch of dirt that was actually a bunker after driving far right of the fairway.
Johnson had to assess himself a two-stroke penalty, which left Kaymer and Watson to compete for the Wanamaker Trophy. Kaymer got it, extending a stretch of non-US players winning the majors that has now reached six in a row.
Stricker is the highest-ranked American in the world standings, and along with Watson looked like one of the best hopes in the early going to break the longest US drought in the modern era.
Everyone raved about the condition of the 7 467-yard course in the sprawling suburbs northeast of Atlanta, which was the home club of Bobby Jones and had hosted three previous majors.
But a baffling mishap the evening before - mowers gone wild? - left two ugly patches in the 14th and 17th greens.
Apparently, a quick rise in the humidity caused the brushes on two movers to stick in the grass, ripping the impeccable greens. Head groundskeeper Ken Mangum had to bring in sod for a quick patch job and the PGA of America ruled that the affected areas would be treated as ground under repair, allowing golfers to move their ball if it landed there or they had to putt through it.
"We felt like our hearts had been ripped out," Mangum said. "It's a little bit like cutting yourself with a razor on your wedding day."
He said the greens would be trimmed with hand mowers the rest of the week and it shouldn't effect play.
"We're still maintaining the same speed we had," Mangum said.
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