Tiger Woods made a dismal start to his Open bid as he carded two early double-bogeys on the way to a six-over-par 78 that left him 14 shots behind the leader on Thursday.
The American 15-times major champion, who has won the Open twice at St Andrews, looked out of sorts from the moment he found the water on the par-four first hole and started with a six on his card.
‘It feels like I didn’t really hit it that bad. I did have bad speed on the greens, yes,’ Woods told reporters. ‘But I ended up in bad spots. Or just had some weird things happen. And that’s just the way it goes.’
Woods, who returned to competitive golf in April at the Masters 14 months after suffering serious injuries in a car crash, missed last month’s U.S. Open to prepare for the British Open.
But the 46-year-old looked pensive as he trudged around the Old Course and bogeys at the third and fourth holes took him to four over par before he failed to hole a short putt on the seventh green to rack up another six.
Things did start to improve around the turn however.
He sank a six-foot putt to birdie the ninth, grinning broadly as he acknowledged warm applause from the crowd and riding the momentum to pick up another shot at the 10th.
Woods bogeyed the 13th, though, and narrowly missed a long eagle putt at the par-five 14th, settling for his third birdie of the round.
A wild tee shot at the 16th landed in the heavy rough and cost him another shot before he safely negotiated the last two holes and raised his cap to the packed galleries around the 18th green.
The significance of the venue was not lost on Woods.
‘(It was) very, very meaningful,’ he said, ‘All things considered, where I’ve been, I was hoping I could play this event this year. And I am. I just didn’t do a very good job of it.’
He also appreciated the support.
‘The crowd were absolutely fantastic,’ he said. ‘So supportive. They were very respectful and very appreciative of all of us out there today, which was great.’
Tied for 145th place in the 156-man field, Woods needs to make up considerable ground if he is to avoid missing the halfway cut at the scene of two of his greatest triumphs, in 2000 and 2005.
‘Looks like I’m going to have to shoot 66 tomorrow to have a chance,’ he said. ‘Guys did it today. And that’s my responsibility tomorrow to go ahead and do it.’