Tiger Woods focused despite trigger-happy photographers
American 14-time Major winner carded a 69 after opening at Hoylake with two bogeys
Tiger Woods lines up his putt on the seventh green during the first round of the British Open at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake. Photograph: Cathal McNaughton / Reuters
Eight years ago Woods started the defence of his title with a 67 and went on to lift the Claret Jug for the third time, despite the distractions from spectators’ cameras which led to a ban the following year.
In 2014 he started with a 69 and was again moved to complain about the photography of amateurs and professionals alike, most notably being forced to stop midway through his downswing on his second shot to the 18th.
“There were a lot of cameras and we were backing off a lot of shots, it was tough,” Woods said. “Unfortunately people don’t put the phones on silent and some of the professional guys were getting on the trigger a little early.”
Mobile phones and other devices were allowed back into the Open in 2012 and the R&A have installed a “Wi-Fi mesh” around the course to allow spectators to use them to keep up to date with the action. Asked if catering to spectators in this manner was something of a double-edged sword, Woods added: “Just put it on silent. I’ve had numerous years of dealing with this. There’s a lot of moving parts out there. And you’ve just got to stay focused and plod my way around.”
In a statement, R&A executive director of championships Johnnie Cole-Hamilton said: “We are delighted to have big crowds here enjoying the golf and I know there are many fans here who are experiencing the Open for the first time this week.
“We urge them and all our spectators to keep their phones on silent and remind them that taking photographs on Championship days is not permitted.”
Woods could certainly have had far bigger problems than a few distractions, dropping a shot on the first after finding an awkward lie in a greenside bunker which meant he could not keep his third shot on the green. He then three-putted the second from long range and had to hole from eight feet on the fourth to avoid another bogey, before getting back on track with a birdie on the par-five fifth.
The 38-year-old then carded a hat-trick of birdies from the 11th and recovered from a bogey on the 14th with birdies on the 15th and 16th, the latter hole seeing him hit driver for the only time all day — just as he did in the first round in 2006 for the only time in 72 holes.
“I knew I could do it,” said Woods, who was absent from the first two majors of the season after undergoing back surgery on March 31st and missed the cut in his comeback event at the end of last month.
“That’s why 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 only going to get better from that point. I’m getting stronger, I’m getting faster, I’m getting more explosive. The ball is starting to travel again. And those are all positive things.
“It felt good to be back out there competing again. It wasn’t exactly the best start but I still had four par fives to play. I still had a couple of the short holes. I’m not going to be the only guy in a 72-hole event to make two bogeys. I just got mine out of the way early.
“With the forecast the next couple of days supposed to be iffy, guys aren’t going to go really low here. We’re going to be bunched.”
Asked what parts of his game he needed to improve, the 14-time major winner added: “Pretty much everything. That’s the case all of the time anyways, but at Congressional I made just some terrible mistakes mentally. My decisions weren’t very crisp and I wasn’t decisive enough. Today was totally different and consequently I shot a better score.
“I felt good about a lot of things I did out there today. Especially coming back after that start I had today, to fight myself back into the championship. I feel pretty good about it.”
So did it feel like old times Woods was asked? “It wasn’t that long ago,” he said with a smile. “I did win five times last year.”