By Steve Keating
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Washington (Reuters) - Tiger Woods sank to the bottom of the U.S. Open leaderboard after an opening round 10-over 80 on Thursday, but vowed to fight on and return to the top.
Without a major title since his U.S. Open victory seven years ago at Torrey Pines, Woods chances of ending the drought seems unlikely after he carded the fourth highest score in his professional career to leave him 15 shots behind co-leaders Dustin Johnson and Swede Henrik Stenson.
"Not very happy, that's for sure. It was a tough day," Woods told reporters. "It's one of those things, just got to work through it.
"I'm trying as hard as I can to do it, and for some reason I just can't get the consistency that I'd like to have out there."
Even in a year that has produced only disappointment Woods' display on the links-style layout was shocking.
Dressed entirely in black, the outfit perfectly reflected Woods dark mood as he piled up bogey after bogey and was unable to tap into any of the form and belief that carried him to the top of the world rankings and 14 major titles.
The 39-year-old American made a dreadful bogey, bogey start and went steadily downhill from there until he made a triple-bogey at the 14th that dropped him to 10-over.
Only one player, Rich Berberian Jr., a club professional playing in his first U.S. Open, was below him at the time.
A birdie at the 16th was the lone bright spot before he finished with a bogey to leave him in tie for 152, one shot clear of Rickie Fowler and three in front of Berberian.
"The bright side is at least I kicked Rickie's butt today," joked Woods, managing to find a bit of humor in his performance. "I fought hard and that was my number (80).
"I couldn't grind out any harder than that. So that's just the way I played and unfortunately it was a high number today."
With just one top-25 finish in five starts this season, little was expected from Woods as he continued to recover from back surgery and to work on a remodeled swing.
Few would have expected his downward spiral to continue to such an extent on Thursday at Chambers Bay where he recorded his third round in the 80s this year.
He has managed to break 70 just twice.
"They're all not easy to do. I've gone through tough phases in each one of these things and I've come out okay on the other side," said Woods.
"I haven't played enough. I haven't had a rhythm to play.
"I didn't play much last year and I haven't played much this year.
"Knee surgeries are pretty easy compared to a back surgery, the recovery time and for some reason, it's just a lot harder dealing with a nerve than a joint.
"Keep grinding and keep working."
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)