Woods declined interview requests after his round but spoke later to a US PGA Tour official.
“The conditions were tough and when I missed it cost me,” he said after completing a seven-over 79 that had him plummeting down the scoreboard at Muirfield Village, where he has won a record five times. “I caught the wrong gusts at the wrong time, made a couple of bad swings and all in all it just went the wrong way.”
His previous worst nine-hole score was a 43 on three occasions, most recently at Quail Hollow in 2010.
He wasn’t alone. Playing partner Zach Johnson shot an 81.
“It was hard,” said Johnson, who declined to discuss Woods or his play. “It was very hard today. There was a lot of wind.”
The third member of the group, Jim Furyk, shot a 69 that was among the best of the day on a course that is difficult even when conditions are calm and quiet. Asked if it was stunning when a player as good as Woods shoots such a high score, Furyk said, “Yeah, it is. He didn’t hit that many bad golf shots but he got away with none of them, if that makes sense.”
Woods had earlier rounds of 71 and 74 and stands at eight-over 224 and near the bottom of the 73-player field. The 79 was his worst round since shooting the same score in the second round at Quail Hollow in 2010 and matches the second-worst score he’s had as a pro. His only worse 18-hole score is a third-round 81 at the 2002 Open at Muirfield.
After starting at the tenth, things started getting away from him on the 12th. His iron shot to the par-3 cleared the lake but left him with a bad stance in the front bunker. He had to hit away from the pin just to get out of the sand. From there he three-putted for a double bogey.
At the 15th Woods hit the fairway but then put his second shot into the deep rough left of the green. He hit sideways to avoid a tree but came up short of the green, then chopped out of the thick stuff with the ball running downhill through the green. Again he followed with a three-putt for a double-bogey.
“We didn’t hit that many bad shots starting out the day and the next thing you know we were quite a few over par,” Woods said. “It was a rough day. It was tough out there from beginning to end.”
After failing to get up and down from just off the green to the left of the 17th, everything unravelled at the difficult par-4 18th. Woods’ drive was down the middle but his second shot was well short. A sand wedge shot landed short of the pin and spun back, rolling even further away from the pin than he had been after the previous shot. Woods finally chipped to five feet above the hole on the steeply-slanted green, then rolled his putt down the hill and seven feet past and missed the return to settle for the triple-bogey.
“The third shot was pretty incredible, to hit it that short and have it spin that much,” Furyk said. “It was spinning like a top and then came back. He just kind of had things snowball on him.”
Woods birdied three of the first five holes on the front nine but had bogeys at the sixth and ninth.
“It’s just one of those things where I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggled out there,” he said. “I tried to fight back on the back nine but it just didn’t quite materialise.”