Tiger Woods surges down the stretch, starts British Open at 3-under

Matthew Lewis

For just the second time in his career, Tiger Woods started a major championship with two straight bogeys. But 14-time major winner turned it on through the back nine and is in great position after his first major round of the year.

Although it may not have been a vintage Tiger Woods round -- or compare to how he played Royal Liverpool in 2006 -- Woods looked solid and like a contender during the first round of the 2014 British Open. The former world No. 1 rounded into form as the march went on and a strong closing nine pushed him to a 3-under round of 69.

While Woods finished the day with a strong round, it looked ugly early on. In fact, Tiger got off to a rough start and appeared to be more likely on his way to a round in the 80s instead of the 60s. He hit a very poor approach shot on No. 1, finding one of the many greenside pot bunkers. His lie in the bunker didn't leave much of a shot and he his attempt out ran off the green and down the opposite slope (via Golf Digest)

Tiger_bunker_medium

He chipped up and tapped in for bogey, not exactly the start he was hoping for. Things got worse before they got better. He three-putted on No. 2 for another bogey and dropped to 2-over through two holes.

Coming off a lackluster missed cut showing at Congressional, it was easy to question whether Woods was simply in good enough form to compete for a major championship. He put those questions on hold fairly quickly, however, as he settled in and went on a birdie run to get into the red. A birdie on the par-5 5th hole dropped him to 1-over. Woods has to pick up those red numbers on the par-5s, which he played in 14-under during his 2006 win. He'd make the turn at 1-over following four pars to close his front nine.

Woods began to dial in on the back nine. The turnaround began at No. 11 where, despite missing his approach to the right, Woods holed a lengthy birdie putt to get back to even.

That proved to be the start of a string of red numbers. Woods stuffed it close on approach to birdie No. 12 and No. 13 and drop to 2-under. He gave away a shot with a bogey at No. 14, only to get it right back and then some with back-to-back birdies at Nos. 15 and 16. His entire game was sharp during that stretch. He had some success off the tee -- although he hit a few poor shots -- rolled in a couple very tough putts, chipped well and even stiffed an approach shot. A good six-hole run is only a minor piece of a 72-hole tournament, but the stretch proved Woods was at least physically capable of stringing together good shots.

Tiger closed his round with two pars to post a 69. He's currently tied for eighth place. The round was a major step in the right direction for Woods, who appeared to be in much better form than he was at any point at Congressional. It didn't look like he had any issues physically and his short game and touch were much sharper after those first few holes. He was still far from perfect, missing on too many approach shots and hitting a few errant tee shots. But for a player playing in just his second competitive event in three months, Thursday can't be considered anything but a success.

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