-- Tiger Woods began the first round of the PGA Championship on Thursday morning wearing a light brown shirt and ended it wearing a dark brown one. Over the course of 18 grueling, sweltering holes at Baltusrol Golf Club, the sweat stain on his back morphed, in an unmistakably westward trend, from the shape of the state of New Jersey, to that of Illinois, to Texas, to -- by the time he was finished -- the Pacific Ocean.
If the darkening of Woods's shirt was quite obvious, it was nothing compared to that of his mood, as he slashed, slopped and seethed his way to a 5-over-par 75 that marks the worst opening round, in relation to par, of his major championship career. You cannot win a tournament Thursday, the cliche goes, but you can lose it. And Woods nearly did.
For rivals such as Phil Mickelson and the rest of the field, however, the effect of Woods's stumble was just the opposite, a light emerging from the dark cloud of Woods's dominance.
"If you're looking for me to shed a tear" about Woods, Mickelson said with a straight face, "it's not going to happen."
On a 90-degree day that soaked shirts and hardened Baltusrol's greens, a total of 39 players, most of them notorious straight-shooters, navigated the Lower Course's monstrous layout and gnarly rough with scores of even-par 70 or better, led by six players -- Mickelson, Stuart Appleby, Stephen Ames, Rory Sabbatini, Ben Curtis and Trevor Immelman -- at 3-under 67.
Eleven players were a shot back at 68, including Davis Love III, Retief Goosen, Steve Elkington, Bernhard Langer and Jesper Parnevik.
Two things jump out immediately from the leader board: First, it is full of past major winners -- from Mickelson (2004 Masters) and Curtis (2003 British Open) at 3 under, to Love (1997 PGA), Elkington (1995 PGA), Goosen (2001 and 2004 U.S. Opens) and Langer (1985, 1993 Masters) at 2 under, to Justin Leonard (1997 British Open) and Hal Sutton (1983 PGA) at 1 under.
And second, with a handful of exceptions -- such as Mickelson and Love -- it is nearly devoid of long drivers.
Check out these stats from the 2005 PGA Tour: Curtis ranks 164th on tour in driving distance (at 278.1 yards). Elkington ranks 130th. Parnevik, 106th. Heath Slocum (68), 148th. Langer, 78th. Leonard, 120th. Immelman plays primarily on the European Tour, but his driving distance of 290.3 yards in his 22 official PGA Tour rounds would rank him 63rd.
Woods? He ranks second at 313 yards.
"It's the great equalizer -- a course like this, where you have to [drive] it in the fairway," said Leonard, referring to Baltusrol's high rough. "You can hit it as far as you want, but if you don't hit it in the fairway, it's not going to matter where you are."
Even Mickelson, one of the tour's longest hitters, made a conscious effort to scale back his drives -- hitting some 3-woods off the tee, and hitting high fades with his driver -- in an effort to hit fairways. By doing that, he said, "I'm able to be much more aggressive [hitting] into the greens."
The rough was an inhospitable place. Leonard said he hit in the rough six different times, and the farthest he was able to advance his ball was 120 yards. Mike Weir, who shot 72, said he was unable to carry a pitching wedge 70 yards from the rough on one particular shot. The conditions had the effect of making some players feel like bloodied prizefighters.
"It played," said Darren Clarke, the burly Northern Irishman, who shot 73, "very burly."
Lest anyone should write him off too soon, Woods does have a history of recovering from faulty starts. In this year's Masters, in fact, he shot 74 in the first round and trailed by seven shots, but shot 66-65-71 the next three rounds and won in a playoff.
"I'm still in the tournament, no doubt about that," Woods said. "The golf course is only going to get harder. There won't be too many guys under par by the end of the week."
Still, for all his prodigious talent -- his 10 major titles, which include this year's Masters and British Open, are eclipsed by only Jack Nicklaus's 18 and Walter Hagen's 11 -- Woods does not fare as well on tight, rough-lined courses as he does on wide-open ones, such as Augusta National and the Old Course at St. Andrews.
Woods's round Thursday included four bogeys, a double bogey on No. 7 (his 16th hole of the day) and a lone birdie on the par-4 No. 8. The frustration had him flinging his putter and muttering under his breath -- his perfect, white-toothed smile rarely in evidence.
"On every hole, you could say there's something I did wrong on the hole to not make birdie," Woods said. "It took a lot of mental energy out of me to try to stay that patient, that calm and that focused. I could easily have lost it and packed it in and gone home."
No hole summed up Woods's day quite like his bogey at No. 18 (his ninth hole of the day), which might as well have been a double bogey, because it came on the easiest hole on the course -- a 554-yard par-5 cupcake where 74 other players managed to make birdie or better.
Woods's troubles on 18 began with a drive that he pull-hooked into a grove of trees that runs alongside a creek down the left side. The ball apparently hit a tree and dropped into the thick grass that lines the creek, inside the red hazard line. One says "apparently" -- because Woods never saw the ball land, and he needed help from the gallery to find it.
"Did anybody see it?" he asked the gallery at one point. "Did anybody see it bounce?"
"No," someone shouted. "It thunked."
And thunk, it did -- into a partially plugged lie that Woods determined to be unplayable, but only after asking for a rules official, whom Woods attempted to convince that someone had stepped on the ball before he found it.
"If the ball hits a tree and ricochets down, and the ground is pretty hard there," Woods said later, "it should not embed that far."
Still, Woods's errant shot deserved to be punished, and if there was one thing to be said about Baltusrol on Thursday, it is that the course was fair.
As for Woods, there is only one word to describe what he did: He thunked.