MEDINAH, Ill. — The good news for Tiger Woods on Thursday during the opening round of the BMW Championship was that he looked far better than a week earlier, when back stiffness and a strained oblique caused him to withdraw from the Northern Trust.
The bad news was despite some promising signs, Woods’ 71 was nowhere near the score needed to put him in position to advance to next week’s Tour Championship.
Perhaps that is asking too much at this point for a golfer who was playing just his 14th competitive round since winning the Masters and has been lacking tournament and practice repetitions.
“It’s just not sharp,” he said after making four birdies and three bogeys. “I’m trying to make changes in my swing, and it’s just not quite there yet. And so it’s just one of those things. I need reps, and I just really haven’t put in a lot of reps.”
And therein lies the problem for Woods, whose 2018-19 season will come to an end this weekend if he is not able to make a big move up the leaderboard.
Woods likely needs a finish of no worse than 11th in the 69-player field to move up from 38th in the FedEx standings to 30th, the final qualifying spot for the season-ending Tour Championship, the final event of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
In tour projections, Woods actually fell to 47th.
“When I got out here, I thought probably 5 or 6 (under) would be leading, but once I got on the golf course and felt how soft the greens were, it’s like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to go. We’ve got to make birdies.'”
Woods started out well enough, knocking an approach from a fairway bunker to 5 feet for a birdie at the first hole, then rolling in a 40-footer at the third. But he short-sided himself and made bogey at the fourth, and after a two-putt birdie at the fifth, couldn’t get anything going. He three-putted the ninth, and made just one more birdie, at the 11th. His final bogey came on No. 16 after a wayward drive.
For the day, Woods hit just seven of 14 fairways, with 11 of 18 greens. He needed 29 putts.
But in a big-picture sense, the day was a success. Woods, 43, withdrew from the Northern Trust last Friday and didn’t hit any full shots until Wednesday.
“I didn’t feel any tightness in my oblique at all, so that was a positive, and I just need to clean up my rounds and get going,” he said. “Seems like the whole field is under par. The golf course is soft. Even though it’s long, it’s just gettable.”
Medinah is the site of two of Woods’ 15 major titles, the 1999 PGA Championship and the 2006 PGA Championship. He also played on the losing U.S. Ryder Cup team here in 2012.
“I’m going to have to make a lot of birdies,” he said. “There’s so many guys under par that I’m going to have to shoot some low rounds just to get back in it.”