Tiger Woods on shooting 85: 'I didn't want to have anyone watch me play'

Tiger feeling blessed to play golf (0:50)

Tiger Woods reflects on being able to play golf again after his previous injuries and reveals the people who knew the true extent of his condition. (0:50)

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Tiger Woods is back at Muirfield Village Golf Club, where he's made plenty of history, most notably five victories at the course and tournament Jack Nicklaus founded.

But it's also where he shot his highest score as a pro, an 85, during the third round of the 2015 Memorial, which was his last visit to the tournament. The score led to an early-morning Sunday tee time -- alone.

"I didn't want to have anyone watch me play the way I was playing,'' Woods said Wednesday.

The 85 included a career-first of 40 or worse for both nines. He shot 42-43. Through seven holes, Woods was 2 over par and played the remaining 11 holes 11-over.

His round included a quadruple-bogey 8 on the last hole, as well as two double bogeys, six bogeys and a single birdie.

Zac Blair, a rookie on the PGA Tour in 2015, played with Woods for the first time and beat him by 15 strokes, shooting 70. As much as Woods would like to forget that day, Blair said "it was the coolest round of golf in my life.''

Not in the field this week at the Memorial, Blair recalled that he could see a possible Saturday pairing shaping up with Woods after both barely made the 36-hole cut.

"From the first hole on, I couldn't have been more blown away,'' Blair said from his home in Utah. "My favorite athlete of all time, and to get paired with him was really cool. Everything exceeded my expectations. He was my idol and I tried to not expect much, but he was really nice, talked to me all day, talked to me about fishing in Utah. The Chambers Bay U.S. Open was coming up and we talked about that because I had played in the U.S. Amateur there.''

Despite Woods' poor score, Blair was still impressed.

"I remember some of the shots he hit and thinking how unbelievable this guy is and why he is on another level as far as talent from anybody else,'' Blair said. "To hit some of the shots he hit ... I had played a year out here and played with a lot of good players but some of the things he could do with a golf ball made me realize why he was the best. He was still able to do some good things. He hit some iron shots that I couldn't believe how flush they were.''

And that's shooting 85.

"Unfortunately, that's all I had,'' Woods said. "I take pride in throughout the years of never bagging it. I've tried in every single round to fight to the end. Unfortunately that week I think I shot 85. I've had (a few) rounds in the 80s in my career, and unfortunately that was the highest one I've ever had.

"It didn't feel very good. But it is what it is. I tried and, unfortunately on this golf course, hitting it as bad as I did it just wasn't good enough.''

The 85 is one of just four scores Woods has shot in the 80s as a pro. His first came in 2002 at The Open at Muirfield, where he shot a third-round 81 in horrible weather conditions. He also shot 82 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in 2015, and then two weeks later he opened the U.S. Open with an 80.

At the Memorial, after a final-round 74, he finished last -- by 8 shots.

"I don't remember much of the round. Clearly we know now he was hurting back then,'' said caddie Joe LaCava, referring to the back issues that resulted in three more surgeries, including a spinal fusion last year. "He had a lot of troubles, but I know I can tell you that he was trying hard.''

Woods has 14 major titles compared with Nicklaus' 18 and 79 PGA Tour wins compared with the 73 posted by the Golden Bear.

When it comes to high scores, Woods' four is best compared with the six Nicklaus had prior to turning 40. Nicklaus had 16 overall, his highest an 85 during the 2003 Masters when he was age 63.

"Whenever I tell people the story about playing with Tiger, I always try to tell them how amazing he was toward me,'' Blair said. "He could have easily walked off. He wasn't playing his best and after 9 he could have just gone in. He stuck through it all day and really grinded it out and was still really nice. That was the coolest round of golf in my entire life.''