Tiger Woods believes he’s right in contention after his eagerly-awaited return to The Open, writes James Toney at Carnoustie.
The former world number one sits five shots off American leader Kevin Kisner after a level par first round at Carnoustie and believes there were shots left on the course.
If you were in any doubt about whether the 14-time major champion still has the ability to light up a golf course, they would have been quickly dispelled here on the Angus coast.
He admits there were times when he thought he’d never play another Open – perhaps never even play – but quite quickly it was like he’d never been away.
After a three-year absence, he strode onto the first tee, all smiles and all business and within a few minutes he had banked his first birdie, sending a frisson of excitement around these links.
His swing looked more fluid than it has in his recent outings and he reached the turn at two under par, the crowd sensing that perhaps this could be something special.
However, the 42-year old dropped three shots on the back nine – and probably would have wasted more had his putting been off target.
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“I played better than the score indicates, I think I probably had one of the best rounds of the afternoon starters,” said Woods.
“I had two eight irons into par 5s and I’ve ended up with pars on both those holes, that something I can clean up easily.
“I felt like I could shoot something in under par and I got off to a great start. I’ve got my own business to take care of. I’m grinding, trying to figure out how to play this golf course. I’m trying to shoot the lowest round I possibly can.”
Woods has made no secret that The Open – which rewards strategy over raw power – represents his best chance of edging closer to the major tally of Jack Nicklaus.
Whether that comes this week is open to debate but he’s certainly not short of confidence that it will come.
“I haven’t played this championship for a few years now, and I’ve always loved playing over here,” he added.
“Carnoustie is where I got introduced to links golf and I’ve always loved playing this championship. I’ve been able to win it a few times and this is how the game should be played. It should be creative. It should be played on the ground. You can utilise the ground as an ally.
“When we play home in the States, that’s not the case. Everything is going straight up in the air, but this is very different. You can roll the ball 100 yards if you wanted to, or you can throw it straight up in the air. I like having those shot options.”
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