In the morning, you watched Woods start like the Woods of old with three birdies in his first five holes and then watch the former world No.1 record a 10-over-par over the last 13 holes, it was clear that Woods’ injury plagued, abbreviated season was likely over.
“I thought I was playing well enough that I don’t have to do that,” Woods said of why things went so haywire. “I can just go out there and play and let it go and just play by feel and see the shot, hit the shot, feel it and I’m not at that point yet. My motor pattern is getting there, and I start fighting it, and I couldn’t get it back.”
For Woods watchers, this had to be a bitter pill to swallow, not only did he get it going early, but then he came in and made a lame excuse of why he fell apart in the end.
In the afternoon, McIlroy, the favorite, didn’t start as well as Woods. McIlroy started with two pars and then on the third hole, he pulled his drive left into the trees. His his ball lying against a pine tree root, McIlroy tried to pick the ball and instead damaged his 7-iron and his right wrist.
With many watching, including his father Gerry, wondering if the 22-year-old should go on, the U.S. Open Champion gutted it out for the remaining 15 and half holes finishing at an even-par 70 and still with a realistic chance to win.
“They said is it’s your decision; if you want to play on and you feel comfortable doing that, but if not, there’s no point in risking it,” McIlroy said. That was the advice he was receiving from the physicians on the course. “It’s the last major of the year. I’ve got, what, six or seven months to the Masters. So I might as well try and play through the pain and get it over and done with.”
McIlroy had an MRI after the round at a local hospital and it revealed a strained tendon. He will be a tee time decision tomorrow morning, but either way he did one thing on Thursday in Atlanta with his performance, he took the baton from Woods, the baton of the next great player.
Stuart Hall is editor of the Golf Press Association.