LOS ANGELES • Such was Tiger Woods’ frustration that he declined to talk to the media on Thursday.
The 15-time Major champion had gone into this week’s Zozo Championship with high expectations, with some analysts predicting he would break out of a tie with Sam Snead to claim a record 83rd PGA Tour title on a course he loves.
The event at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California, is also likely to be his final warm-up before next month’s Masters title defence, so Woods had aimed to gain some momentum ahead of the third Major of the year.
Instead, the former world No. 1’s hopes of retaining his Zozo title – he won the inaugural edition in Japan last October – went up in smoke after a disastrous opening four-over 76. It left him tied for second-last in a field of 77 players at the no-cut event.
His one bright spot came when he drained an 87-foot putt on the par-four 14th hole that elicited a rare smile from the American.
But it was his joint-worst PGA showing on par-five holes in any round, going three-over with a birdie, two bogeys and a double bogey.
It was a shock as it came on a course that hosted his Hero World Challenge charity event for 13 years until 2013. Yet Woods was not the only big-name star to struggle.
Four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy snapped his club in anger on his way to a disappointing 73, which included four bogeys and two double bogeys.
Others were not quite as flustered as the duo.
Sebastian Munoz had a roller-coaster round, but finished with a 64 to emerge as the first-round leader.
The Colombian, whose lone PGA victory came last year at Jackson, Mississippi, had two eagles, eight birdies, five pars, two bogeys and a double bogey, but claimed he was always in control.
I’ve become better with managing crazy ups and downs. I just get out of the way… I just stopped trying to play anything and just keep playing golf.
“I’ve become better with managing crazy ups and downs,” the 27-year-old said. “I just get out of the way. At first I was like what should I do? Should I be more calm? Should I attack more?
“I just stopped trying to play anything and just keep playing golf. It’s just one of those days. It happens.
“I just focused on making the best swing I could and I started four yards left, started cutting nicely towards the pin.
“Once you see the guys throw the touchdown sign, it’s good.”
He was one stroke ahead of world No. 9 Tyrrell Hatton and third-ranked Justin Thomas, who both shared second on 65.
Despite world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and 15th-ranked Adam Scott being sidelined due to positive Covid-19 tests, and the late withdrawal of last year’s US Open winner Gary Woodland due to a back injury, the event still boasts a strong line-up.
World No. 2 Jon Rahm (68), 25th-ranked Justin Rose (67) and PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa (71) all got off to decent opening rounds.
The Zozo Championship, originally part of the PGA Tour’s Asian swing, is being played in California instead of Japan because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the tournament is expected to return to its host country next year.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS