TIGER WOODS shrugged off “the worst hole of his career” to somehow stay in touch with inspired playing partner Justin Rose at Pebble Beach.
After disappointments in the first two Majors this year, Rose showed the form that has earned him five stints as the world No 1 as he grabbed the first round lead with a stunning six under par 65.
That equalled the lowest ever first round in a US Open at Pebble – Woods shot the same score in 2000, when he stormed to the greatest triumph of his career, winning by a staggering 15 shots.
Woods, 43, was nowhere near the level that made him the undisputed number one for most of his career.
Yet he still managed to claw his way to a one under par 70 that left him just five shots off the lead.
It could have been a lot worse, especially after Woods played one of the par threes like a weekend hacker.
He made such a mess of the 188 yards fifth hole – walking away with a double bogey five – that former Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger was shaking his head in disbelief.
Azinger, now a respected TV commentator for Fox Sports could scarcely believe Tiger’s antics.
He said: “I can honestly say I’ve never seen Tiger Woods play a hole like that – it must be the worst hole he’s played in his entire career.”
Woods hit his tee shot miles left and was lucky it did not fly out of bounds after taking a massive bounce off a cart path. But he was still up to his ankles in gnarly rough.
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He sent his chip facing through the green into more rubbish and after finally chopping his ball onto the green he missed a nine footer for bogey
He clawed both shots back with birdies at the next two holes, but neither putt earned the trademark Tiger fist pump – that was saved for the long 14th, where Woods sank a snaking thirty footer to save par, after making a complete horlicks of the hole.
The former world No 1 struggled with his iron shots all day, although that has been one of the strengths of his game recently, especially when he made his triumphant return as a Major-winner at Augusta two months ago.
But Woods scrambled brilliantly – although not as effectively as playing partner Rose.
Tiger one-putted 11 times, but Rose went one better, and set a US Open record by taking just 22 putts in all.
And while Woods was rescuing pars, Rose picked up five birdies and an eagle, with just one blemish on his card, a bogey at the tricky par four eighth.
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That also allowed him to put Brooks Koepka in the shade – not something he is used to at the US Open after winning the title in each of the past two years.
Kopeka’s rivals must have been thinking: ‘Oh no, here we go again’ as the world No raced to four under par after just six holes.
But the four time Major winner suddenly started looking human, and three bogeys meant he had to settle for a two under par 69.