By Andrew Both
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (Reuters) – Tiger Woods won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines despite double-bogeying the very first hole, and he will have to dig himself out of a similar predicament if he wants to lift the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday.
Woods steadied his ship to some extent but a two-over-par 72 left him a distant nine strokes behind early leader and defending champion Brooks Koepka in the PGA Championship first round at Bethpage Black.
Masters champion Woods had gone 118 consecutive holes in stroke play without a double-bogey or worse — since running up a quadruple-bogey at the famous par-three 17th at the Players Championship in March.
Although the six-foot putt he missed at the 10th hole on Thursday was certainly no cause for panic, unlike at Torrey Pines 11 years ago it set the tone for the day.
He missed four more shortish putts — including a four-footer at the fifth hole that was a momentum killer coming straight after an eagle at the par-five fourth.
Woods perhaps paid the price for only playing nine holes in practice this week, staying away from the course on Wednesday for reasons not entirely clear.
Round Swamp Road divides Bethpage Black, with holes two-to-14 snaking their way between the deciduous forests and up the rolling hills of the state park and back towards the clubhouse.
A massive morning gallery enjoying brilliant spring sunshine surrounded the entire length of the uphill par-four 15th awaiting the arrival of Woods and his playing companions Koepka and Francesco Molinari.
They were rewarded watching Woods birdie what played the most difficult hole at both the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens.
But the 15-times major champion pulled his drive at the par-four 16th and found a brutal lie from which he gouged out a little wormburner, his ball never getting more than a few feet off the ground.
It came up short of the green but left him with a straightforward pitch and led to a par save.
But the par-three 17th bit Woods big time. His ball plugged in a bunker and he could only extricate himself to 30 feet in the fringe, compounding his misery by three-putting.
Koepka, meanwhile, quietly went about his business almost ignored by the spectators.
The winner of three majors in the past two years did what he does so well, belting huge drives, followed by precise iron shots and reliable putting in a fine round of 63.
(Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Ed Osmond)