Golf: Tiger Woods happy with "mature" start
St Andrews: "Back to Business as Usual" has been Tiger Woods` message here this week and it certainly looked like that out on the Old Course.
The fallen superstar carded a five-under par 67, which was the perfect start to his bid at becoming the first man in the 150-year history of the British Open to win three times in a row at St Andrews.
It was a hugely encouraging opener for the 34-year-old American, who was back in action on his favourite golf course, eager to chase away the storm clouds that have engulfed him over the past eight months.
Woods started solidly with a birdie at the second before grabbing birdies at the seventh and ninth to reach the turn in three under 33.
He then ran off three birdies in a row during a purple patch from the 12th and although he bogeyed the tough Road Hole at the 17th, he came in contented with a round that left him four shots behind leader Rory McIlroy.
It was, he offered, a patient and controlled round of golf.
"The art here is just letting the round mature, and there`s no need to force it," Woods 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 I said, let the round mature. I had plenty of holes left, but the conditions were benign and just go ahead and get it done, and it happened."
Awe-inspiring and god-like to the public the last time he played the Old Course five years ago, Woods teed off just after 9:00 a.m. under glowering skies as a much diminished figure, ridiculed and vilified by a sex scandal that won`t go away.
Playing alongside England`s Justin Rose and Camilo Villegas of Colombia, Woods looked relaxed and focussed as he limbered up on the putting green, exchanging pleasantries with the hero of last year`s Open, Tom Watson.
Steady rain, which had greeted some of the early starters, eased off as his tee-time approached.
Dressed in a mauve, striped tee-shirt, the world number one cut a splash of colour onto an otherwise sombre and restrained setting on the famous first tee in front of the iconic Old Course club-house.
Pulling out a long iron, Woods clattered his opening effort down the middle of the yawning fairway after receiving a respectful, welcoming cheer from the few hundred spectators in attendance.
He then set off in pursuit of his ball, hands in pockets, to some scattered calls of "Go, Tiger, Go".
Asked what he thought of the reception he got in St. Andrews in his first appearance here in five years Woods said: "They`ve always been respectful and enthusiastic here. There`s no reason it would be any different.”
"They were great out there today. They were just enthusiastic. We were making a bunch of birdies, so a lot to cheer about. But they were very respectful."
On his own game, Woods said that bit by bit it was coming together after the five months leave of absence he took to sort out the marital mess that his own transgressions brought on.
"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."