Tiger Woods was in pain at British Open, and it wasn’t just his opening 78
PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland — The excitement that always surrounds Tiger Woods even brought out the hired help near the fourth hole at Royal Portrush.
They couldn’t help his sore back, or his soaring score at the British Open.
The Masters champion, a three-time winner on the links courses of the only major in Europe, shot a 7-over-par 78 on Thursday, his highest first-round score at the tournament and second highest opening at any of the four biggest events in golf.
‘‘I hit a lot of missed shots. They were all left,’’ said Woods, wearing black rain pants and a gray sweater on a day of wet and windy weather. ‘‘Wasn’t hitting it solid. Everything was off the heel.’’
With his back always an issue following four surgeries over three years to 2017, Woods made a bogey on the fifth and followed by a double bogey on the sixth. Then another bogey.
He racked up six extra shots over those next six holes, getting only one par along the way.
‘‘I’m just not moving as well as I’d like. And unfortunately, you’ve got to be able to move, and especially under these conditions, shape the golf ball. And I didn’t do it,’’ Woods said. ‘‘I didn’t shape the golf ball at all. Everything was left-to-right. And wasn’t hitting very solidly.’’
His only birdie came on No. 15. Woods celebrated by holding out both arms to receive the applause of the crowd, then licked his index finger and raised his arm.
But that birdie was also his last.
Woods came into the British Open knowing he wasn’t 100 percent healthy, and knowing he never may be again. He even joked ahead of the tournament that his aches and pains are so common now they are the new normal.
Because of that, he has been playing less on the tour. He hasn’t competed since June 16 at the US Open, and has only 10 rounds under his belt since his victory in the Masters.
‘‘Just Father Time and some procedures I’ve had over the time. Just the way it’s going to be,’’ Woods said. ‘‘One of the reasons why I’m playing less tournaments this year is that I can hopefully prolong my career, and be out here for a little bit longer.’’
After a 78, he might have only one more day to play in Northern Ireland. Only seven players were behind him on the leaderboard, including favorite Rory McIlroy.
‘‘I have to be realistic about my expectations and hopefully peaking at the right time,’’ Woods said. ‘‘I peaked at Augusta well. And hopefully I can peak a few more times this year.’’
Duval makes a 14
David Duval lost a few golf balls on his own Thursday. It’s one that was found that brought him the wrong kind of attention with a score of 14 on one hole and a 91 when he walked off Royal Portrush.
‘‘Just one of those God-awful nightmare scenarios that happened today,’’ Duval said. ‘‘And I happened to be on the end of it.’’
Duval, who plays sparingly now because of work with Golf Channel, liked his form when he arrived and even opened with two birdies to get his name on the leaderboard during a morning start. That ended with a quadruple-bogey 8 on the downwind fifth hole because of two lost balls.
And that wasn’t the worst of it. Not even close. The par-5 seventh hole, one of the two additions to Royal Portrush, weaves between dunes with a stiff wind off the North Atlantic into the players. Duval sent his shot into high grass where it was likely to be lost, so he hit a provisional.
So far, not bad.
‘‘The marshal had another ball,’’ Duval said. ‘‘I asked if it was a 2 — Titleist 2. And then I looked at it and saw 2 and then played almost the entirety of the hole, and it turns out with the wrong ball.’’
The mistake was discovered by Zach Johnson’s caddie. However many shots Duval hit with the wrong ball didn’t count toward his score, but he received a two-shot penalty for playing the wrong ball — this after already getting two shots for losing the original tee shot. And the provisional ball was deemed lost, so that was another two shots.
The only way to account for playing the wrong ball was to return to the tee to start over.
From there, he was hitting his seventh shot and hit that one into the hay. He found it — buried, of course — and could only chop out. Some five shots later, he was back where he was when he first realized he was using the wrong ball — short of the green — and finished off his 14.
The first score posted was a 15. Then, it was quickly revised to a 13. After a few hours, the R&A realized he was given only a one-shot penalty for hitting the wrong ball, so it was adjusted to a 14.
Either way, it wasn’t a lot of fun.
‘‘Very unique, awful situation,’’ Duval said.
But he played on, making a triple bogey on the 17th hole. The 91 is the highest score of his career, which includes a 59 in the final round of the Bob Hope Classic in 1999 when he was on his way to No. 1 in the world. His previous high round on the PGA Tour was an 83, most recently in 2003 at the Greater Hartford Open.
Duval won the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 2001 and is exempt through age 60. He has played five times this year, including a Korn Ferry Tour event near his home in Colorado last week.
He never considered withdrawing to spare the embarrassment of such a big number. It matched the second-highest score in British Open history, behind the 15 that Herman Tissie made on the short ‘‘Postage Stamp’’ eighth hole at Royal Troon in 1950.
‘‘You have an obligation as a professional athlete. If you play, you post your score,’’ Duval said. ‘‘Am I happy about that? Is there some . . . embarrassment to it? I don’t know. But I teed off in the Open and I shot 90 today. So put it on the board.’’
McIlroy opens with — 79
The opening tee shot Rory McIlroy could live with, even after it went out of bounds and shattered the screen of a woman’s mobile phone. He had, after all, spent the last five years anticipating a homecoming like no other and the first shot was always going to be a battle between muscle memory, nerves and the wind that blows off the North Atlantic coast.
The missed tap-in was another story all together. McIlroy was still kicking himself for that when he made another mess on the 18th hole to cap a day that went horrendously wrong for the hometown hero — and likely shot himself out of the first British Open in Northern Ireland in 68 years.
‘‘Inexcusable,’’ said McIlroy, who would have been excused if he had picked a few other choice words to describe the putt on the 16th hole.
A day McIlroy had been anticipating for so long came apart almost before it began. A dreaded snowman on the first hole, a triple on the last and McIlroy shook hands with his playing partners before walking to the scoring tent to sign a card with a fat 79 at the bottom.
He teed off as the betting favorite to hold the claret jug on Sunday. Now the odds are against him even making the cut.
All on a course where he shot 61 as a 16-year-old amateur and in an area where the mere mention of his name draws proud smiles from a population divided over a lot of things — except golf.
‘‘I didn’t give a very good account of myself out there,’’ McIlroy said. ‘‘I can play better, as you know.’’
McIlroy missed a 6-footer on the 16th hole and, shockingly enough, the tap-in that followed.
It was a mistake McIlroy chalked up to a lack of concentration. He said he was still thinking about hitting the first putt on a bad line when he quickly hit what should have been a gimme.
A tee shot on 18 into the deep rough that led to a triple-bogey 7 finished things off for the day — and likely for the tournament.
If there was any consolation to draw from the day, McIlroy was hardly alone. There were scores to be had at Royal Portrush but Woods struggled mightily, Adam Scott shot 78 after coming in a week early to prepare, and Phil Mickelson signed for a 76.
Lowry in form
The buzz among the locals at Royal Portrush has been all about Northern Irish natives McIlroy, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell this week, so Shane Lowry felt like he came into his ‘‘home’’ British Open a little under the radar.
‘‘Obviously not now,’’ Lowry said.
A guy from across the Irish border was in second place after the first round of the first British Open in these parts since 1951, with the bearded Lowry quelling early jitters to shoot a 4-under 67 that could easily have been better.
Lowry quickly felt at ease on the Dunluce Links. He saw familiar faces as he scanned the crowd, and knew much of the course having won the North of Ireland title here as an amateur in 2008.
Indeed, Lowry was so confident about his game and the surroundings that he was happy to roll into Portrush late Monday, when Rory-mania was already in full flow and after Clarke had been handed the honor of hitting the opening tee shot.
Three days later, Lowry was hitting his best opening round at a major and only behind J.B. Holmes (66) on the leaderboard.
‘‘I feel like my game is where it’s at now [that] if I hit a bad shot, I feel like I can get myself out of trouble,’’ Lowry said. ‘‘It’s a great place to be in, to be honest. I hope it lasts for another while.’’