PGA Tour rookie Brendan Steele and journeyman Briny Baird stole the limelight from Tiger Woods as they charged into a share of the early lead in Thursday's opening round at the Open.

While Woods struggled at a wet and cold CordeValle Golf Club in his first tournament appearance in almost two months, Steele and Baird fired four-under-par 67s to set the pace.

Steele, who won his maiden PGA Tour title at the Texas Open in April, covered the back nine in a sizzling five-under 31 to join fellow American Baird at the top of the leaderboard.

It was a little cold and rainy this morning, and the ball wasn't carrying very far, the 28-year-old Steele told reporters after recording five birdies and a lone bogey.

It was a little tough to get going early on but, once I made the turn, things started to click. I caught some nice weather on the back nine.

Australians Steve Bowditch and Matt Jones, plus American Troy Matteson, were a further stroke back after carding 68s while three-times major winner Ernie Els was among a group of nine players knotted on 69.

However Woods, who has not competed since he missed the cut at the PGA Championship in August, was three over for the round with four holes to play.

After making an encouraging start under overcast skies with a birdie at the par-four first, he bogeyed the second and third to reach the turn in one-over 36.


Woods squandered a golden opportunity at the par-three 11th where his birdie putt from four feet slid past the right edge of the cup before he made a total mess of the par-five 12th.

As the rain began to intensify, he double-bogeyed the hole after driving into the left rough and pulling his second shot into a hazard before taking a penalty drop.

Though Woods has struggled for form for most of this year while battling leg injuries and working on the fourth swing change of his professional career, he came into this week's Fall Series event with high hopes.

The biggest difference for the 14-times champion since he last competed on the U.S. circuit was his return to full fitness, allowing him to practice unhindered.

I'm happy with how everything has progressed from tee to green, the former world number one said before Thursday's opening round. I've had a chance to practice and work on everything.

That's something that I hadn't been able to do for a while, so I have to say I'm very pleased with every facet of my game.

Asked how he would measure success this week in his first tournament since the PGA Championship in August, Woods replied: Getting a 'W' (a win).