GULLANE, SCOTLAND — When Tiger Woods struck his first shot of this British Open, he looked a mess. It sailed so far left, into the heather, that from the tee box he didn’t know if he’d find it, so he grabbed another ball and hit a provisional — which also sailed left.
“It was amazing,” Woods said.
What was actually amazing was how Woods held together. After taking an unplayable lie and thus a penalty stroke off that first tee shot, he did well to make bogey at the first. Having contained the disaster, Woods trudged his way to an opening 2-under-par 69 that sits just three off Zach Johnson’s lead, very much in the tournament.
“I’m very pleased to shoot anything even par or better,” he said.
The first tee shot, he said, resulted from indecision. He had 3-wood in his hand, but thought if he got hold of it, he could reach a fairway bunker. Maybe 5-wood would be better? He stuck with the 3-wood, but tried to take something off.
“Hence I hit a flip-hook left,” he said, “and there she goes.”
But that was one of Woods’s few errors. And there were two encouraging signs. First, his left elbow — which caused him to drop out of the AT&T National last month — “held up great,” he said.
“I knew the ground was going to be hard over here,” Woods said. “There’s potential for having some long rough, and that little time off helped.”
Secondly, Woods putted beautifully despite the fact that his first putt at the 14th rolled off the green. He had 10 one-putts, the last at 18, when he saved par with an eight-footer.
“Tiger played phenomenally well for his 2-under par,” playing partner Graeme McDowell said. “Really ground out well, did what he does best.”
U.S. Open champion Justin Rose made only one birdie en route to a 75, part of a difficult day for the players from the United Kingdom. Oliver Fisher of England and Martin Laird of Scotland, who both shot 71, were the only British players under par. Former world No. 1 Luke Donald struggled to an 80 in which he played the final seven holes in 7 over. The last time Donald produced such a score in a British Open: 1999, his first Open round ever, at Carnoustie. . . .
Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champ at St. Andrews, made a double bogey at 7, a bogey at 8 and then hit a badly wayward drive at 9. With that, he shook the hands of playing partners Woods and McDowell and withdrew, unable to overcome a bad hip — his third withdrawal in his last five events. He also withdrew from the U.S. Open last month at Merion. . . . Peter Hanson withdrew with a bad back.