Tiger Woods struggles to a 74 at Quail Hollow

Reporting from Charlotte, N.C. -- Combustible words were in limited supply Thursday — both from Tiger Woods and the crowd that followed him at the Quail Hollow Championship.

Combustible play, on the other hand …

“I didn’t know which way [my shots were] going to go,” Woods said after a two-over-par 74 left him nine strokes behind leader Bo Van Pelt. “I was struggling so bad out there. I was just trying to piece together a round to keep myself in the tournament.”

Two tee shots along Quail Hollow’s closing “Green Mile” found waterlogged destinations, resulting in a double bogey-bogey finish to Woods’ first nine. He followed with a bogey at No. 1, putting him in a four-over bind from which he couldn’t fully extricate himself.

Van Pelt’s bogey-free 65 featured seven birdies and was one shot off the tournament record he shares with Kirk Triplett and Rory Sabbatini.

Kenny Perry was second after a 66, one shot better than Camilo Villegas.

All told, 43 pros broke par on a Quail Hollow layout that several pros consider worthy of hosting a major championship one day. That included Phil Mickelson, who carded a 70 barely 24 hours after taking an early exit from the pro-am to seek treatment for dehydration caused by a stomach bug.

“I may have run out of energy there toward the end, but that’s OK,” said the Masters champion, who took on 2 1/2 bags of IV solution Wednesday. “I’ve had some good fortune when I’ve not felt good in the past.”

After Wednesday’s pro-am round, Woods described his play as “scratchy.” Asked for an adjective to go with Thursday’s 74, he replied: “Worse.”

It was frustrating enough that he opted to put the day behind him and not try to work out the kinks on the practice range.

“The hell with it,” he said.

To his credit, those were the strongest words Woods uttered within public earshot Thursday. Though he did slam his club into the ground once after a stray drive at No. 1, any self-scolding was short and clean.

“No, no, no!” he blurted as he watched his tee shot at No. 7 curl toward a creek running alongside the fairway. Other times, he just cried out his own name.

Woods’ language came under fire as he placed fourth at the Masters, having pledged earlier to cut down on his blue outbursts. He acknowledged afterward that he has a tough time cutting himself any slack.

“I’m trying,” he said. “But when you’re fighting a miss like this and trying to piece together a round to keep myself in the tournament, it’s pretty tough. I try to be easy on myself, but I know what I can do and I’m not doing it.”