Tiger Woods defied most people’s expectations after opening his Open Championship with a three-under-par 69 at Royal Liverpool before roaring: I told you so.
The 14-time major winner had been largely written off going into this week’s event after having spent most of the season so far on the sidelines through injury.
Indeed, before today, he had played only two competitive rounds since the start of March, both coming at the Quicken Loans National at Congressional last month, where he missed just the tenth PGA tour cut of his career.
That lack of action and form prompted many commentators to speculate that he’d struggle this week, including Bernard Gallacher, who yesterday told bunkered.co.uk that the 38-year-old would do well just to make the cut.
If he can back up his first round today with another good one tomorrow, however, there is no chance of missing out on the weekend’s action.
After opening with back-to-back bogeys, Woods clawed one back at the par-5 fifth. He then rattled in three birdies in a row between the 11th and 13th holes and, although he dropped a shot at the 14th, he grabbed it straight back with a four at par-5 15th.
“I feel good about a lot of things I did out there today." - Tiger Woods
“I knew I could do it,” said Woods afterwards. “That’s why I was telling you guys it was so important for me to play at Congressional. The fact that I was able to recover every day and the fact that I was stronger, more explosive the more days I played .
“I’m getting stronger, I’m getting faster, I’m getting explosive, the ball is starting to travel again. Those are all positives things.”
He added: “I think Congressional was a big stepping stone for me. If this was my first event back, I wouldn’t have known how explosive I could be, how hard I could go at it, the shots I could play. All those were variable that I took care of at Congressional.”
The key now for Woods is to capitalise on this good start and turn it into a legitimate title challenge. That, though, is something he has struggled to do over the past few years.
Since 2010, he has played the first two rounds of the majors in a combined 14-under-par, with eight rounds in the 60s. Round three and four, however, tell a different story. He has played those in a combined 27-over-par, breaking 70 just once.
Even so, he insists he is confident about the challenge ahead.
“I feel good about a lot of things I did out there today,” he said. “Especially coming back after that start I had, to fight myself back into the championship. I feel pretty good about it.”
Tiger Woods – your thoughts
What did you make of Tiger Woods’ performance today? Can he make a real charge for a 15th major title over the next three days? Leave your thoughts in our ‘Comments’ section below.