Hoylake, England, United Kingdom (4E Sports) – Tiger Woods showed no ill effects from the back surgery that forced him to miss the first two championships this year as he fired a three-under-par 69 in the opening round of the Open Championship.
Woods buried six birdies and had three bogeys at Royal Liverpool to finish in a tie for eighth and trail early leader Rory McIlroy by three strokes.
Matteo Manassero shot a 67 while Brooks Koepka, Edoardo Molinari, Francesco Molinari, Jim Furyk and Sergio Garcia had rounds of 68.
“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 added.
Last month, Woods fired rounds of 74 and 75 at the Quicken Loans National and he looked headed that way in the opening round of the Open after opening with consecutive bogeys.
He made a big save for par at the fourth hole, an eight-footer after another poor putt, and that seemed to settle him down as he birdied the fifth and played the first nine in 1-over 36.
Woods failed to birdie the par-5 10th, but holed a putt from off the green for a birdie at the 11th, the start of four birdies in five holes. A bogey at the 14th was the result of one of the four fairways he missed, but he rebounded to birdie the next two.
An opportunity to get another at the par-5 18th was derailed by an approach shot into a greenside pot bunker that left Woods with an awkward stance. Prior to the shot, he stopped in mid-swing due to the sound of cameras clicking.
“I’ve had numerous years of dealing with this,” Woods said. “There’s a lot of moving parts out there. And you’ve just got to stay focused and plod my way around.”
Woods’ second round with Henrik Stenson and Angel Cabrera begins at 2:05 p.m. local time (9:05 a.m. ET) on Friday.