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Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods was pleased with his play, and with the enthusiastic reaction of the gallery. (Getty Images)

Woods pleased with new putter and his position

Tiger Woods three-putted both the 17th and 18th holes Thursday, but said afterward that he was happy with the way it performed for him. He was pleased at the way he let his round of 67 come to him, and had some words of advice for leader Rory McIlroy.

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (PA) -- Tiger Woods was left in an unfamiliar position at St. Andrews Thursday after being joined by Rory McIlroy in golf's "63 Club."

Woods, who equaled the major championship record round himself at the PGA Championship three years ago, has led after each of the last seven rounds of the British Open at the Home of Golf.

This time, in his first tournament in Britain since his sex scandal, the world No. 1 has four strokes to make up on the Northern Irishman. But the fact that it is "only" four with 54 holes to play means Woods still represents a real danger.

Asked what advice he would give 21-year-old McIlroy now, he said: "Just keep doing what he's doing.

"Obviously he's doing what he needs to do and he's got a long way to go. He knows how to win golf tournaments and he'll be fine,” he added. "It's a pretty impressive round no doubt. Rory kept it going -- he played well through 'the Loop', but he also finished it off well even when the wind started picking up."

Because of the slow greens this week, Woods took out of his bag the putter with which he has won 13 of his 14 majors, including the last two Opens at St. Andrews by eight and five shots. He is clearly prepared to give the new blade a chance.

"I'm very pleased with it,” he stated after three-putting the 17th for bogey and then doing the same from the Valley of Sin on the last for par. "As I said, it comes off faster and these greens are just the slowest I've seen in a long time, if ever, and especially with the moisture they have out there.

"Today felt awkward because there was absolutely no wind whatsoever and you never play a links golf course with no wind,” he explained. "With the conditions you had to go get it -- you had to take advantage of it. I felt like I did a pretty good job of that today and I let the round mature.

"We all saw was Rory was doing, what JD (John Daly) was doing -- it just goes to show you that the golf course could have been had,” he added. “To be in the top 10, you had to be 5 under -- you don't see that at too many majors. We've got three more rounds. I'm in good shape. As of right now we're on the good side of the draw, but you don't know tomorrow."

This is only the seventh tournament Woods has played since taking four months off to deal with the fallout from his private life. He has had fourth-places finishes in both the Masters -- his first event back -- and U.S. Open, but nothing better in his other starts.

"It's getting better every week,” he said of his swing. “Every week I'm playing, the things I've been working on have been starting to come together. I'm hitting shots that I haven't hit in a long time. It's building."

As for the crowd's reaction to him throughout the day, he was delighted.

"They've always been respectful and enthusiastic here. There's no reason it would be any different -- they were great out there today,” he said. "They were just enthusiastic -- we were making a bunch of birdies, so they had a lot to cheer about."

Woods was playing with Justin Rose and Camilo Villegas. Rose, winner of two of his last three events in the United States, birdied the first two, but failed to build on that and signed for a 70, while Villegas had three birdies in four holes around the turn and shot 68.

A 12-footer at the second gave Woods his first birdie, and after picking up further shots on the seventh and ninth for an outward 33 he had three more in a row from the 12th. But at the treacherous 17th -- a hole he played in 2 over when he finished at a record 18 under in 2000 and 1 over when he was 14 under in 2005 -- he missed the fairway, couldn’t get his second close and paid the price.
 

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