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Tiger Woods blames "awful" greens for 74

Remember when Tiger Woods didn't do excuses?

Those days are long gone. Woods played better than expected from tee to green at a time in his life when he's distracted by a whole lot more than a few clicking cameras. Woods was superb in hitting the first 10 greens in regulation in the first round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, where he was superhuman in winning by a record 15 strokes back in 2000.

You even have to give him credit for getting up and down for par on four straight holes from 11-14. But ultimately, he took 33 putts on his way to a 3-over par 74 that left him five shots out of the lead. Woods' round included two three-putts, including one on the par-4 16th hole when he still was just 1-over. But putting had nothing to do with his finishing bogey at No. 18, where he flew the green on the par-5 with his third shot wedge.

Still running hot when he came off the course, Woods told ESPN, "I hit the ball well enough to shoot a good score. These greens are just awful. You can't leave a second putt [beyond a tap-in]. The ball was moving every which way. Hopefully, it will be better tomorrow."

Woods wasn't the only one who complained about putting. Phil Mickelson, who shot a 75, called his putting "horrific." The difference was that Mickelson blamed himself while Woods blamed the poa annua greens, which tend to become bumpy in the afternoons. Of course, Woods offered no such critiques when he blitzed the field at Pebble 10 years ago. He was in the last group, of course, on both Saturday and Sunday back then.

Oddly enough, neither Woods nor Mickelson recorded a single birdie. That was the first time they ever failed to do that in the same round of a major championship.

The fact that Woods is reaching for excuses now makes you wonder if he no longer believes his famous powers of concentration and focus are enough to get the job done. Still, there only are three players below 70, leaders Paul Casey, Shaun Micheel and Brendon De Jonge.

Those names aren’t likely to score anybody. The big question is whether Woods' name still scares his fellow competitors the way it used to do.
 

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