LYTHAM, England: Tiger Woods made the most of what he called the easiest conditions he has seen at Royal Lytham Thursday to fire an opening-round 67 and stand three strokes off the pace at the British Open.
While his score was one stroke off what he posted as an amateur in his 1996 visit to the Lancashire links course, he matched his best round since March to share fourth as he seeks his first major title since the 2008 U.S. Open.
“I played well,” Woods said. “I really hit it well. I was very close on making a few more putts. Every ball was starting right on my line. I was very pleased with that. I’ve just got to hit the putts a little harder.”
Woods sank a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-3 first, followed with a 20-footer at the fourth, added a 15-foot birdie at the sixth and birdied the par-5 seventh to reach four-under and sole possession of the lead briefly.
“It was a good start,” Woods said. “I hit the ball well all day. I was just lacking a little bit of pace on the greens coming home.”
A bogey at 14 slid Woods back while Adam Scott birdied five of seven holes in a back-nine binge to seize the lead at six-under 64. Woods was among six major winners hot on Scott’s heels.
“It was pretty soft,” he said. “The wind wasn’t blowing. So we knew that we needed at least to get off to a quick start on that front nine and I figured a couple under would have been good.
“But I look up on the board and Scotty is going pretty low and so is everyone else. I felt I had to make a few more and I was able to.”
“I’m very pleased with what I did today. I only hit one putt that was off line. But every putt was right on my start lines. I just needed to hit the putts a little bit harder. These greens are not quick with the amount of rain that they have had so I’ve got to make that adjustment,” he added.
Woods mostly managed to avoid the deep rough he dubbed “almost unplayable” after his first practice round last Sunday.
“I felt like I had pretty good control. I was shaping the golf ball both ways,” Woods said. “Sometimes I rode the wind. Sometimes I held it against it. I had certain sections I wanted to put the ball in and I did that all day.”
Woods, a 14-time major champion chasing the all-time major title record of 18 won by Jack Nicklaus, is far from secure, knowing stiff breezes off the Irish Sea may yet have their way with the world’s finest golfers.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Woods said. “I got off to a positive start. We have a lot of golf left.”