Tiger Woods rode his new putter to five birdies in an eight-hole stretch starting at the seventh. (Getty Images)
New putter equals satisfying 67 for Tiger
Thursday's first round felt awkward to Tiger Woods, but only because the seabreeze wasn't blowing while he was on the course. His new putter, he said, worked just as he hoped it would.
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Four shots off the lead. Fifty four holes to go.
And someone just had to know if Tiger Woods could catch leader Rory McIlroy.
"We’ve got,” Tiger said, "three more rounds.”
Unusual question? Not at a British Open. Not when the UK press is querying Tiger.
But what was unusual, Tiger noted, was the lack of wind at St. Andrews.
"Today felt awkward because there was absolutely no wind whatsoever, and you never play a links golf course with no wind,” he said. "So most of the guys were 4 or 5 under par through the loop (holes 7 through 11) and just had to go get it.”
And that he did. The man who has won the last two Opens held here at St. Andrews opened with a 5-under-par 67. It would have been -- could have been -- 6 under had he not tried to hit a cut off the tee and wound up with a pull and a bogey at the 17th. Or. someone offered, had he not left his birdie attempt at the 18th short.
"It’s a putt you’ve got to play about 15, 18 feet of break,” he chuckled. "It’s a hard putt to judge.”
His new Nike Method putter, which he put into play after winning his last 13 majors with his trusty Scotty Cameron, worked nicely. But so did the rest of his game.
Tiger hit 17 of 18 greens for the first time since the third round of the 2008 Buick Invitational and the first time in a major since the third round of the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont. The last time he hit all 18 was the final round of the 2006 World Golf Championship-American Express Championship.
"I’m very pleased with it,” he said of the new putter. "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. Some of the putts that are uphill into the grain are pretty slow, and just imagine if you get the wind blowing, as well.”
Woods birdied the second hole, then added birdies at the seventh and ninth to turn 3 under. He got to 6 under after a three-birdie spurt from the 12th through 14th, then dropped one at 17.
"You know, with the conditions we had, you had to go get it,” Woods said of his score. "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. Most of the guys were under early, even though I wasn’t, and I said, just let the round mature, just keep hanging in there and keep plugging along, and it could have been a pretty good round today.”
Someone suggested his body language was showing he was none too thrilled with a semi-slow start Thursday.
"No, as I said, the art here is just letting the round mature, and there’s no need to force it,” he said. "Just go ahead and just capitalize on certain holes, and just because I’m at 1 under par doesn’t mean I need to go force things.”
As for McIlroy’s 63? "It’s a pretty impressive round, no doubt,” Tiger said. "Rory kept it going, he played well through the loop, but he also finished it off well, too, made a couple birdies late. Even when the wind started picking up.”
And his game? He has tied for fourth in both the first two majors of the year. But he has been searching to pull his putting and his game together. This is the first time since 1998, when he won his ninth start, than he hasn’t won in his first six starts (He won his eighth start in 1996). The Open is his seventh start this year.
"It’s getting better every week,” he said. "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.”