A pair of late 3-putts sent Tiger Woods to a sluggish 1-over start at the PGA Championship

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Tiger Woods figures it took him three holes to get back into the “competitive flow" of tournament golf on Thursday at Valhalla.

It may take more than familiar vibes for Woods to stick around for the weekend at the PGA Championship. Like birdies. Maybe a bunch of them.

The 48-year-old plodded his way to a 1-over 72 during the first round, well off Xander Schauffele's early record-setting pace and Woods' 10th straight round of even-par or worse at a major dating back to the 2022 PGA.

The issue this time wasn't his health or the winding, occasionally hilly layout at the course tucked into the eastern Louisville suburbs. It was rust.

Woods hit it just as far as playing partners Keegan Bradley and Adam Scott. He scrambled his way out of trouble a few times. He gave himself a series of birdie looks, particularly on his second nine. He simply didn't sink enough of them.

Making matters worse, his touch abandoned him late. Woods three-putted from 39 feet on the par-3 eighth (his 17th hole of the day) and did it again from 34 feet on the uphill par-4 ninth to turn a potentially promising start into more of the same for a player who hasn't finished a round in red figures in an official event since the 2023 Genesis Invitational.

“Wasn’t very good,” Woods said. “Bad speed on 8; whipped it past the hole. And 9, hit it short. Hit it off the heel on the putt and blocked the second one. So wasn’t very good on the last two holes.”

This is simply where Woods is at this point in his career. The state of his patched-together body doesn't allow him to play that often. When he goes to bed at night, it's a coin clip on how he'll feel when he wakes up.

“Each day is a little bit different,” he said. “Some days, it’s better than others. It’s just the way it is."

Woods, who believes he's getting stronger, felt pretty good when he arrived at the course. Still, it took time for the adrenaline that used to come to him so easily at golf's biggest events to arrive.

The 15-time major winner hadn’t teed it up when it counted since the Masters a month ago, where he posted his highest score as a pro. He’s spent the last few weeks preparing for the PGA by tooling around in Florida. It took less toll on him physically, sure, but he knows it perhaps wasn't the most effective way to get ready for long but gettable Valhalla.

He began the day on the back nine and bogeyed the par-3 11th when he flew the green off the tee and overcooked a recovery shot that raced back across the green and into a bunker. A birdie putt from nearly 18 feet at the par-4 13th helped him settle in. He put together a solid stretch after making the turn, including a beautiful approach to 5 feet at the par-3 third that he rolled in for birdie.

Yet in the same morning session that saw Schauffele in the group ahead firing a sizzling 9-under 62, Woods couldn't really get anything going. He had multiple birdie looks from 20 feet or less over his final nine and only made two. And when his stroke briefly abandoned him late, he found himself well down the leaderboard.

With rain expected Friday, Valhalla — where Woods triumphed over Bob May in an electrifying playoff at the 2000 PGA — figures to get a little tougher. A little longer. A little more slippery, not particularly ideal for someone on a surgically rebuilt right leg.

It may take an under-par round for Woods to play through Sunday. He found a way to do it at Augusta National. He'd like to do the same here.

Yet a chance to give himself a little cushion vanished, and another slowish start Friday afternoon could lead to a fourth early exit in his last seven appearances at a tournament where he's raised the Wannamaker Trophy three times.

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