Tiger Woods posted a respectable Round 1 at the 2014 Open Championship, finishing his day at three under par.
Woods stuttered through the opening challenge at Hoylake, an event that signals his first competitive major since August 2013. The Royal Liverpool Golf Club challenged Woods' resolve throughout and highlighted a player who is working toward his best as he continues to regain form after four months out following back surgery.
On Thursday, he expressed optimism over his recovery, per ESPN.com's Bob Harig:
'I knew I could do it,' Woods said. 'That's why I was telling you guys it was so important for me to play at Congressional. The fact that I was able to recover every day, and the fact that I was stronger, more explosive the more days I played.
'I'm only going to get better from that point. And I'm getting stronger, I'm getting faster, I'm getting more explosive. The ball is starting to travel again. And those are all positive things.'
He previously missed the cut in a warm-up tournament at the Quicken Loans National on June 27.
Woods was tied for the eighth spot on the leaderboard at the conclusion of his British Open round. Here's a look at the top players thus far:
The 38-year-old's day began slowly, with Woods posting consecutive bogeys across the first and second holes. He straightened up by hitting par through the next two and claimed a shot back on the fifth.
After his round, Woods discussed his slow start, per Golf Digest on Twitter:
Tiger: "I'm not the only one who's gonna make two bogeys in a row. I got mine out of the way early."— Golf Digest (@GolfDigestMag) July 17, 2014
Woods suddenly found some consistency alongside Henrik Stenson and Angel Cabrera, finishing the front nine with four pars, as noted by CBS Sports:
While this wasn't an explosive start to his tournament, keeping par within sight was certainly crucial at this stage. A respectable start ensured the American would receive the opportunity to build his confidence.
Woods burst into life by grabbing a birdie on the 11th. His showing dramatically improved from there, with another two birdies firing him up the leaderboard. Most of Woods' morning was spent hovering around T50, but his change in fortune suddenly thrust the veteran into T20.
A slight misjudgement on the 14th saw Tiger put himself in a precarious position, per Jeremy Harris of South Africa's Kfm radio station:
Woods came up just short while trying to save par, taking his overall score to one under heading into the 15th. CBS Sports spoiled the dream for his supporters:
In case you thought Tiger was going to birdie the last 62 holes in a row, sorry to be the bearer of bad news. His streak ended at 3. #Bogey— CBSSports.com (@CBSSports) July 17, 2014
He regained the dropped shot right away with his fifth birdie of the day, as tweeted by the Golf Channel:
Tiger gained another shot on the following hole before serving up one of the day's more memorable moments when he appeared to hit a bouncing shot into a course marshal's face. The incident was humorously followed by CBS Sports' tweet:
"Tiger's having a good back 9 in his first round...but this drive was not part of it." Someone's face got in the way: http://t.co/vT08KCsF5s— CBSSports.com (@CBSSports) July 17, 2014
James Corrigan of The Telegraph explained what he saw while also summarising Stenson's meltdown on the same hole:
don't think tiger's tee-shot on the 17th did hit a marshall in the face. think it hit his rucksack on the floor and he turned away— James Corrigan (@jcorrigangolf) July 17, 2014
Alas poor Henrik - my tip just snapped a club in half on the 17th. i'll rip my betting ticket in half as an act of solidarity— James Corrigan (@jcorrigangolf) July 17, 2014
Woods registered another par on the 17th before getting a little antsy on the final hole after the crowd's interaction became too loud.
Prior to the tournament, Woods acknowledged the difficult situation he finds himself in after serious injury, as reported by Ewan Murray of The Guardian:
I have been in circumstances like this before. If you remember 2008, I had knee surgery right after the Masters. I teed it up to the US Open and won. ...
... I’ve proven I can do it, it’s just a matter of putting my game and giving myself the best chances this week to miss the ball in the correct spots, to be aggressive when I can, and obviously to hole putts. That’s a recipe you find for every major championship, but I’ve just got to do it this week.
His impressive self-belief came to the fore at moments throughout Round 1. As noted by USA Today's Christine Brennan, this is a man who hasn't won a competitive tournament for almost a year and has posted a "terrible" 2014 season so far. As such, he should be extremely pleased with his showing.
Although far from evoking memories of his terrific Open victory on Merseyside in 2006, Woods has shown he can compete for the prize at Royal Liverpool, progress coming ahead of schedule after such a long break.