Open championship: Tiger Woods hits a blistering front nine to put down a marker on opening day
TIGER Woods took only four holes of The Open to get his name at the top of the leaderboard - and even though it did not stay there he gave himself high marks for his day's work.
Woods, who has not added to his 14 majors or three Claret Jugs in four years, covered the outward half in just 30 strokes, only two off the championship record.
The second nine was a different story - eight pars and a bogey compared to five pars and four birdies - but that is as much a reflection on the difficulty of the test at Royal Lytham as his own play.
"I hit the ball well all day. I was just lacking a little bit of pace on the greens coming home," said Woods, who has a chance to return to world number one this weekend after slumping all the way to 58th last November.
He opened with a 14-foot birdie putt, holed from even further away at the fourth and sixth and then chipped dead on the long next.
The one dropped shot came at the 462-yard 15th - and threatened to be even worse when he moved his ball from deep rough into even nastier stuff.
From there, however, Woods muscled the ball on to the green and escaped with a five.
"It was pretty soft, the wind wasn't blowing and we're backing golf balls up.
"The first hole is a perfect indication. I hit a five-iron straight at it and it rolled out eight feet. I can't remember the last time it does that on links golf course.
"I felt like I had pretty good control. I was shaping the golf ball both ways - 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.
"I'm very pleased with what I did. I just needed to hit the putts a little bit harder - these greens are not quick."
Woods was paired with European stars Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia - both yet to open their major account - and easily out-played them.
Garcia shot a 72 that included a double bogey on the third, Rose a 74 in which his only birdie was at the 355-yard 13th.
It was the fourth time at The Open that Woods and Rose have been playing partners in the first two rounds.