Colombian Sebastián Muñoz made this Thursday an extraordinary first round of 64 strokes (-8) to close the day as the only leader of a PGA Zozo Championship in which Tiger Woods had an unusually bad lap and the Chilean Joaquin Niemann signed a correct start of 70 hits (-2).
Muñoz holed twice for aguila from a combined distance of 219 yards. He also had eight birdies. To that he added a wild tee shot for double bogey, three bogeys and just five pairs, totaling 8 under par and a one shot lead over his guards, England’s Tyrrell Hatton and American Justin Thomas.
“It is not a normal round,” Muñoz said.
That was especially the case for Woods. For the first time in his 1277 rounds on the PGA Tour as a professional, he bogey or worse at three par-5s in a single round. That brought him 4 out of 76 by two shots, his worst score in 49 rounds at Sherwood Country Club, which left him 12 shots off the top and in no mood to speak.
Muñoz, the Colombian who played his college golf in North Texas, finished his bizarre round by saving par from a narrow section of the forward bunker with a 15-foot putt on the 18th hole.
He was one shot ahead of Tyrrell Hatton, this month’s most popular golfer, and Justin Thomas, who had a good finish. Hatton won the European Tour flagship event at Wentworth, flew to Las Vegas for the CJ Cup, and tied for third place. Thomas shot 29 in the last nine at Sherwood. Each had a 65.
Whether it was shocking to see Woods so far back in this course is a matter of perspective. He is a five-time winner at Sherwood, along with five finalists, against small fields in a holiday display. He was only playing his third competitive round in the past seven weeks, and the first since he missed the cut at the US Open a month ago.
The rust was evident and a few bad breaks did not help its cause. He pushed his tee shot at par 5 11 to the right, normally not a big deal, except that the ball stopped rolling in the dirt between two trees about 18 inches apart. Woods couldn’t believe it when he got to his ball and wasted no time flipping a sand wedge to hit with his left hand.
At par 5 13, he sent his tee shot back to the right, partially blocked by a tree. He tried to pull out a center iron and didn’t make it to the second section of the fairway. Another violent blow from the thick grass carried him only 130 yards into a bunker about 50 yards from the hole. The sand shot did not reach the green. His 55 foot putt missed the hole. He doubled bogey.
And then, at par 5 16, a tee shot from the right side took a wild leap to the right, and a quarterback carefully walking down the bank into the creek was not a good sign. He took a penalty shot, lay down and sent the wedge just over the green, forcing him up and down for the bogey.
The only smile came on an 85-foot birdie putt on the 14th. Smiles were rare on this day.
Muñoz smiled incredulously. His round started with a three-putt bogey from 7 feet. He followed up with four birdies over the next five holes (he missed a 7-foot birdie putt on the fifth par 5) and then hit a 9-iron from 168 yards that gently faded into the hole and rolled for an eagle.
“Once you see the guy throw the touchdown signal, that’s fine,” Munoz said of a volunteer behind the green.
His other eagle looked like it might be a ghost. He hit the 3 wood that crashed into a tree near the 16th green, and Muñoz was waiting for it to fall into the creek. Instead, he went backwards on the fairway, 51 yards from the hole.
“My caddy told me, ‘Be aggressive. You already took a risk on the N2 shot, so you better move on. “Okay, sure,” he said. “So I throw it in there and find the hole. It was pretty sweet. “
Woods wasn’t the only one who didn’t work out. Rory McIlroy committed two double bogeys. Phil Mickelson, a 50+ circuit winner last week, needed four birdies on his final eight holes to hit 72.