By Alistair Tait, Golfweek
LYTHAM & ST. ANNES -- Will it be deja vu for Tiger Woods in a second consecutive major? Or will he power his way to his 15th win in golf’s platinum tournaments to break a near four-year barren spell in the only tournaments that really matter?
That’s one of the more pertinent talking points in the fledgling stages of the 141st Open Championship.
Woods started strongly but faltered a little on the back nine before signing for a 3-under 67 to sit three behind early leader Adam Scott in T-4 position in the first round at Royal Lytham.
“I was 4-under through seven,” Woods said. “Got off to a quick start there and I hit the ball well all day. I was just lacking a little bit of pace on the greens coming home. Every putt I hit was on line, except for the one I hit on 12. They were dying off the front of the lip, so I needed to hit the putts a little bit firmer."
The former World No. 1 had the best of conditions when he teed off at 9:42 a.m. local time in the company of Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia. There wasn’t a breath of wind, and Woods took full advantage.
“The wind wasn’t blowing, and we’re backing golf balls up,” Woods said. “That’s something we just don't see. The first hole is a perfect indication. I hit a 5-iron straight at it, and it rolled out to eight feet. I can't remember the last time it does that on links golf course. So we knew we needed at least to get off to a quick start on that front nine.
"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.”
He converted that 8-footer at the first. Further birdies came at the Nos. 4, 6 and 7 and at one point he was leading the field at 4 under.
That was as low as he would go. He bogeyed the 15th after finding the left-hand rough, and parred the remaining three holes to post his best opening round in the Open Championship since the 2006 Open at Hoylake.
Woods went on to win that 2006 Open, the last time he won the game’s oldest championship. He’ll be hoping that’s a good omen for this week as he chases his fourth old Claret Jug.
He’ll also be hoping he does better than last the last time he was three behind the lead in the first round of a major.
Woods flattered early but eventually deceived in the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club last month. An opening 1-under 69 put him three behind surprise leader Michael Thompson. Woods followed up with a level-par 70 and shared the lead with David Toms and Jim Furyk heading into the weekend. Amid cries of Tiger is back, he faded with scores of 75 and 73 to finish six shots behind Webb Simpson.
So will it be the Olympic Club all over again or shades of Hoylake?
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Woods said.