CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — At the 2005 British Open at St. Andrews, Tiger Woods took a one-shot lead with an opening 66, and that was pretty much the end of the tournament. Woods had dominated the course in his 2000 Open victory, and sure enough he owned it again in '05, eventually winning by a comfortable five strokes.
At the 2006 British Open he trailed by a stroke after an opening 67, but he won his third claret jug and second straight without much difficulty. Only Chris DiMarco made a run, but he finished two back as Tiger sobbed on the shoulder of his caddie.
Now Woods has a stiffer challenge. He was well off Sergio Garcia's paceafter firing a two-under 69 Thursday in the 136th British Open at Carnoustie. Woods looked as if he might go extremely low after making birdie on the 3rd and eagle on the par-5 6th, but he stalled with bogeys on 8, 12 and 13.
"I made a couple of mistakes there at 12 and 13," Woods said.
He hasn't won in a while; four starts, to be exact. After finishing second to Zach Johnson at the Masters, Woods won the Wachovia Championship in Charlotte, N.C., despite missing wildly down the stretch. He then commenced an un-Tiger-like streak: T37 at the Players, T15 at the Memorial, T2 at the U.S. Open and T6 at his own tournament, the inaugural AT&T National at Congressional Country Club.
He also had a kid, or his wife, Elin, did, with Woods rushing home after his U.S. Open disappointment and arriving just in time for the birth. He later revealed that Elin was in the hospital with complications the entire time he was trying to win at Oakmont. Two weeks after the well-chronicled arrival of Sam Alexis, her father was off to Washington, D.C., to launch the AT&T. He's been busy.
Golf hasn't fallen totally off his radar, though. Woods proved that by deftly playing through the teeth of Carnoustie: the 472-yard, par-4 15th; the 248-yard, par-3 16th; the 461-yard, par-4 17th; and the infamous, 499-yard, par-4 18th, which played to a stroke average of more than 5 on Thursday. Woods breezed through the feared four holes in one under.
"A huge bonus," he said.
Of his birdie on 16, he said, "I just roasted a 2-iron to the front edge. I had about a 100-footer there. Just made a nice shoulder turn and released it and it went in the hole."
He just missed making another birdie on 18. Playing partners Paul Lawrie and Justin Rose shot 73 and 75, respectively. They'll tee off at 2:20 p.m. local time Friday (9:20 a.m. EST).