U.S. Open 2019: Tiger Woods survives difficult opening round at Pebble Beach

PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 13: Tiger Woods of the United States plays a shot from the 18th tee during the first round of the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links on June 13, 2019 in Pebble Beach, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 13: Tiger Woods of the United States plays a shot from the 18th tee during the first round of the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links on June 13, 2019 in Pebble Beach, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Tiger Woods battled his way around Pebble Beach in a tough opening round at the 2019 U.S. Open. Still, he should be able to keep his head up knowing it could have been far, far worse.

Tiger Woods knows the challenges of Pebble Beach, perhaps better than anybody. And, unfortunately, he endured many of them in his difficult opener of the 2019 U.S. Open on Thursday afternoon.

Still, as tough as things were, there is one big positive to be taken: he survived, and his five-shot deficit to 18-hole leader Justin Rose isn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.

Woods will head into Friday’s second round at Pebble Beach tied for 28th place. Things looked good early on, however. Tiger opened with a relatively routine par on No. 1, but things started to get interesting pretty quickly after that.

Tiger found a horrible lie in the rough in the middle of a fairway bunker on No. 2, leaving him no choice but to pitch out. He sent his third shot to 14 feet, and sank a magnificent putt to save par when bogey (or worse) was definitely in play.

Little did he know then how much that would define the day.

Woods made a great birdie on the par-4 fourth to get it in red numbers, but he immediately made a mess of things on the next hole. A badly hooked tee shot took an even worse bounce on the cart path, before finding a buried lie in a native area. Tiger did all he could to mitigate the damage, but he sent his second over the green and into more deep stuff.

In the end, Woods carded double bogey on the hole. It was the only blemish on his scorecard, but it was also the difference between a decent round and something that would have been pretty outstanding, especially considering his form.

Sure, Tiger bounced back from the double with two consecutive birdies to get back to -1 for the day. But when you realize that he closed with 11 straight pars, there was so much more that could have been.

Woods hit 10 of 14 fairways, tied for 30th in the field. He was also fourth in the field in strokes gained putting, using that Scotty Cameron to deadly effect. No, today the aspect of Tiger’s game that has been better than just about anybody else – his iron play – completely and totally abandoned him.

Pebble Beach has miniscule greens, and a U.S. Open setup doesn’t make them much easier. But Tiger hit just nine of 18 in regulation, tied for 106th. Rose was right there with him, but he got to the top on the heels of three birdies in a row to close the round out strong. Woods wasn’t hitting greens, and even when he was, he wasn’t leaving himself great scoring opportunities.

"“It’s typical Pebble Beach, where the first seven holes you can get it going and then after that you’re kind of fighting and hanging on,” Woods said. “I had it going early and had to fight off through the middle part of the round and hung in there with pars.”More from Tiger Woods NewsTiger May Play 2024 Genesis and The Players in New ScheduleMonahan Reveals Progress Made So Far for PGA Tour and in PIF NegotiationsWhy Tiger Woods on PGA Tour Board Is The Best Thing for Golf Right NowHistory Says A Star Will Win British Open at Royal LiverpoolCan Rory McIlroy Win 50 Titles in His Career?"

And fight he did. Considering how weak his irons were most of the day, a few more bogeys wouldn’t have surprised anybody. The good news, though, is that he found 10 of 14 fairways, so he wasn’t being punished by anything other than his own two hands. If he can simply find a way to rein that back in, he could easily still make some moves on Friday and through the rest of the championship.

One of the legend-making victories for Tiger Woods came right here at Pebble Beach nearly two decades ago. When he cruised to a 15-stroke win at the 2000 U.S. Open, he was so much better than the rest of the field it wasn’t even funny. Woods says, though, that his win that week was defined as much by the birdies he made as the bogeys he didn’t.

Woods opened that year with a 22-hole bogey-free stretch, and closed with 26 straight clean holes. The guy had a triple in the third round that year, and he still made it work. Nobody will ever confuse 2019 Tiger Woods for the guy who won the “Tiger Slam”, but that’s the kind of grind he displayed on Thursday. Just without the birdies to make a move.

Next. Matt Kuchar hurt me again. Thanks, sports media.. dark

Tiger still left the course on Thursday with his head held high, knowing that he won what would likely be the toughest battle of the week, against his own missteps. At the U.S. Open, that’s as important as anything else.

If he can keep that mindset, he may just play himself into serious contention sooner than you think.