Tiger sets out to tame Turnberry
Tiger Woods was among the early starters as the 138th British Open got under way on Thursday, returning to Turnberry for the first time in 15 years.
The 33-year-old American was looking to follow in the footsteps of Tom Watson, Greg Norman and Nick Price, the three previous winners over the Ailsa course, rated by many as the most scenic of the nine layouts currently on the Open rotation.
With conditions near perfect as play got under way, in stark contrast to the opening action at Royal Birkdale last year, scores were expected to be low, with many ducking under the par of 70.
First up was the trio of veteran Englishman Paul Broadhurst, former US Open champion Michael Campbell of New Zealand and American Mark Calcavecchia, who won his only Major at nearby Troon in 1989.
Woods was playing in the company of 17-year-old Japanese prodigy Ryo Ishikawa and top European hope Lee Westwood of England.
The world number one is looking for his fourth Open win after St Andrews in 2000 and 2005, and Hoylake in 2006, and his 15th Major in total to close in on the all-time record of 18 held by Jack Nicklaus.
It is the first time in four years that Woods does not hold one of the four Major titles, having taken eight months off after winning the US Open in dramatic circumstances last June in order to undergo reconstructive surgery to his left knee.
He returned to action in February and has won three tournaments since then, but had to settle for a tie for sixth place at both the Masters and this year’s US Open.
That, he insists, is remarkable progress from where he was just 12 months ago.
“I haven’t won a Major, but I’ve come close,” he said. “I’ve put myself in position to win the first few Majors, I just haven’t done it.”
Also out early was 54-year-old Norman, who was the star turn last year at Birkdale, where he led by two strokes going into the final round, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia, who has six top-10 finishes in the last eight Opens, including a play-off loss to Padraig Harrington two years ago at Carnoustie.
The Irishman had an afternoon tee-time as he sets out in his bid to become the first golfer since Australian Peter Thomson in 1956 to win three Opens in a row.
Harrington will be in the company of Australia’s top hope, Geoff Ogilvy, and US veteran Jim Furyk.—AFP.