AKRON, Ohio » Not even one of his favorite golf courses is much use to Tiger Woods these days.
Facing the two easiest holes to start his round, he hit tee shots into the trees and made bogeys. On the course where he has won seven times in his last nine appearances, he posted a 4-over 74 for his highest score ever at Firestone. That put him 10 shots behind Bubba Watson, the largest first-round deficit Woods has faced since he returned at the Masters.
And it didn’t get any better when he finished yesterday in the Bridgestone Invitational.
As he took the 100-yard walk to the scoring trailer, one spectator called out to Woods, "You’re washed up, Tiger. Give it up."
Woods, sporting a goatee but rarely a smile, offered no excuses.
"Only thing I did good today is I kept my patience out there," he said.
It was another example of Woods at war with his game, even on golf courses where he once won with alarming regularity.
He collapsed early in the final round at Pebble Beach, where he had won the U.S. Open by 15 shots the last time it was there. He was never a factor at St. Andrews, where he had won the British Open twice by a combined 13 shots. His dominance is even more defined at Firestone, where he had never shot worse than 72 or finished worse than fifth.
Instead, the day belonged to a guy who had never been here.
Watson made his debut at Firestone by running off four straight birdies on the back nine and making a long putt on the final hole for a 6-under 64 and a two-shot lead over a group that included Masters champion Phil Mickelson and U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell.
"I was impressed about Tiger Woods having seven wins here," Watson said about seeing the South Course for the first time earlier in the week. "But with Tiger’s wedge game, and his putter is phenomenal, I can see where he could win."
That was hard to imagine on a muggy, breezy afternoon in northern Ohio.
"Just because I like the golf course doesn’t mean I’m going to play well on it," said Woods, who hit only five fairways and took 32 putts. "You still have to execute, and I didn’t do that. I did not execute the shots that I wanted to execute, didn’t shape the ball the way I wanted to shape it, and certainly did not putt well."
Two drives into the trees. Two shots to get out of a bunker. Putts that really didn’t scare the hole. When he rolled in an 8-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole, he turned in two directions and bowed to the gallery.
The course wasn’t much of a problem for so many others.
McDowell finished with four straight birdies for a 66. Mickelson was trying to keep his momentum with a par toward the end of his round when he hit a flop shot that dropped in for birdie on the sixth, and then he added two birdies on his last three holes for a 66.
15-year-old shoots 78
Gavin Hall’s debut on the PGA Tour didn’t go as well as planned, and yet even though he shot a 6-over-par 78 in the rain-delayed first round of the Turning Stone Championship at Verona, N.Y., he was still smiling.
What’s not to smile about? The kid is only 15.
"It was a good day. It was all right, just a struggle from the first hole as you guys could see," said Hall, who is trying to become the second-youngest player in tour history to make a tournament cut. "But that’s going to happen in golf. It was just unfortunate, one of my bad days of golf happened at a PGA Tour event.
With 24 players still on the course, Rory Sabbatini and Omar Uresti (7-under 65) were tied for the lead.