In what started out as an ideal day for golf at the Open Championship, the conditions deteriorated at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Course in Lancashire, England.
It seemed the weather hung on just long enough for Tiger Woods to throw out a -3 (67), three strokes behind leader Adam Scott.
Woods, dressed in gray from head to toe, came on to the first tee at 4:42 a.m. ET with a nice round of applause, but got a bigger roar after he stuffed his tee shot on the 220 yards Par 3 about 10 feet short of the whole. He would roll it in for birdie, and stayed hot on the front nine. Through seven holes, Woods had accrued four birdies and three pars to jump out to an early 4-under lead.
He played the next 11 holes one over par (+1) to finish his opening round of 67.
Players and analysts alike have concluded that the front nine is the stretch of holes to make birdies, and so far that strategy is exemplified by Woods's scoring. The back finishes with a long stretch of par fours, which combined with difficult weather conditions, can make finishing on this course a bit hairy on the scorecard.
However, with such pristine conditions in the morning, Woods's game was not impacted at all by gale force winds or cold rain, and he showed the world that he wouldn't let the course beat him. He remains one of the premier ball strikers on the Tour, and is among the leaders in most driving categories, even though he shudders to even think about using his driver. Woods prefers to stick with a long iron or a fairway wood, clubs he can still hit consistently on the upwards of 270 yards.
He did a very good job of staying out of the most difficult parts of Royal Lytham. The knee high rough and the ferocious pot bunkers were not much trouble for the legendary golfer. Woods found the heavy stuff once on fifteen, but persevered to make a very nice bogey to stop the bleeding.
Woods encountered some problems on his approach shots. He was hitting greens with regularity, but on the back nine his distance seemed a bit off and his shot shaping was not flawless like it was on the front. This left him with many 15+ foot birdie putts.
The greens were rolling soft all week and continued on Thursday. This has messed with Woods's putting game in the past, and affected him just enough to miss a majority of those long birdie putts by inches. He was left with pars on 10 out of his last 11 holes to the clubhouse.
I played well today Woods commented after his round. I got off to a sweet start, and kept hitting it well.
Woods tees off Friday at 9:43 a.m. ET.