|Woods found trouble on the 15th hole. (AP)|
If Tiger Woods' front nine was clinical, the final nine was a microcosm of his game in recent years: maddeningly inconsistent. After going out in 30, Woods made his way to the clubhouse in 37 strokes and now finds himself three shots off the lead behind Adam Scott, who fired an opening round 64.
That said, it's not like the wheels fell off, even in terms of the unrealistic expectation that fans and the media place on Woods. Instead, Tiger was able to manage his mistakes which, as the old saying goes, is critical to playing well.
After four birdies in his first seven holes, Tiger parred Nos. 8-14 before a wayward tee shot on the 15th left him in the same lush rough he called "nearly unplayable" earlier in the week. Turns out, it was exactly that; the fescue grabbed the shaft of his club on his second shot, and he was only able to advance the ball a few yards. Woods salvaged a bogey, his only blemish on the card, and then returned to scribbling pars on his scorecard all the way to the scorer's tent.
For some perspective on the tale of Tiger's two nines, consider this: he one-putted five straight times on the front but finished his round with 10 consecutive two-putts.
Overall, Tiger has to be happy with how he played; he hit 93 percent of his fairways, 83 percent of his greens, and averaged 10 more yards off the tee than the rest of the field (291.5 yards).
"I played well today, I really played well," Tiger told ESPN after his round. "I got off to a sweet start, 4-under through seven (holes) and I kept hitting it well, I was just slightly off on the greens (but) every putt was starting on my lines. The only bad putt I hit was on 12, I just needed to hit them another six inches to a foot harder."
Put differently: considering that Tiger's last major victory came at the 2008 U.S. Open, and that he has just one top-5 finish in his last six majors (a T-4 at the 2011 Masters sandwiched around a missed cut and four finishes, none higher than T-21), Thursday's round at Royal Lytham was a success.
Nevertheless, we suspect he'll spend the rest of the day on the range because, well, that's what he does.
If you're looking for a silver lining, there's this: It's been well documented that Tiger has never come from behind to win on the final day of a major championship, but here's a nugget that could portend good things: in his three previous Open Championship victories, he opened with a 67 (2000), 66 (2005) and 67 (2006).