Based on 18 holes of play, we can feel pretty comfortable in saying Tiger Woods will not end his 10-year drought in majors at the 2018 U.S. Open.
Woods carded an eight-over 78 in Thursday's first round at Shinnecock Hills in New York, putting him nine strokes behind four players at one under going into the clubhouse. The 14-time major champ began his day with an ugly triple-bogey on No. 1 and never recovered, adding in bogeys on Nos. 2 and 11 to go along with doubles on Nos. 13 and 14.
Round 1 Iron Play and Putting Doom Tiger's U.S. Open
That was bad. Real bad (Michael Jackson).
On the bright side, Tiger wasn't the only great who struggled. Rory McIlroy imploded his way to a 10-over 80. Jason Day shot a 79.
On the downside, literally everything else about this round. Tiger never gave himself a chance from the opening hole. After a drive that put him on the fairway, Woods' next three shots went rough-rough-rough like a dog before finally getting onto the par-four green in five shots. Then he two-putted from inside seven feet for his first triple bogey in his U.S. Open career.
On the par-three second, he nearly double-bogeyed again before holing out for a bogey. Two holes. Four over.
On the bright side, things didn't keep derailing from there. Woods played the next eight holes at one under and seemed to be settling into a groove. Had he been able to keep that up, Tiger would have been within striking distance given the difficult course conditions.
Tiger splashed into a bunker on the par-three 11th before crawling to a bogey and then threw together back-to-back doubles on Nos. 13 and 14. Tiger showcased some of the worst putting of his career on the par-four 13th with a laughable four-putt that saw him need three putts from inside six feet. His approach game failed him on the following hole, with Woods needing four strokes to get onto the green before two-putting his way to a double.
Woods' irons were a complete mess, as he hit only 38.9 percent of his greens in regulation. He didn't do much better on the greens, averaging more than two putts per hole.
All-around abysmal play.
'Tiger Is Back' Narrative Is Tired
Let's say some good things: First, it's nice to see Tiger back on a golf course in a U.S. Open without a grimace on his face. This is the first time he's played the event since 2015 and his first without an obviously debilitating injury since 2013.
But these are his Jordan Wizards years. There's no other way around it. Tiger Woods is a fundamentally average PGA Tour golfer in every single imaginable sense of the word. He is Gary Woodland with a bigger bank account.
And that's fine! Tiger coming back to play competitive golf at all is a bit of a miracle. With his legacy secure and his finances beyond being in order, it would have been understandable if Tiger stepped away forever. He's the most dominant golfer in history and probably the second-greatest the sport has ever seen, with respect given to Jack Nicklaus' longevity.
The best we can hope for is those random sparks of brilliance. Jordan scored 43 points four days after his 40th birthday. It's possible Tiger Woods finds a way to win a few more golf tournaments and perhaps even adds a major. One last triumph to ride off into the sunset and complete his comeback.
This suspension of disbelief that he's ever going to be the best player in the world again? It's time to shelve it. Just come to grips with the fact it's nice to see an old friend on the course again and feel that twinge of nostalgia. Remember the fist pumps; daydream about better days when you see him wearing red on Sunday; hope that maybe there's a four-day stretch where it all clicks in again and we can get a happy ending.
Jordan Spieth was 14 the last time Tiger won a major. No matter which way you slice it—ha!—we're watching the last chapter of Tiger's career.