Newspaper article International New York Times

Woods Takes Place among Leaders at Open ; McIlroy, in Front with 66, Leads Group in 20s Who Challenge Status Quo

Newspaper article International New York Times

Woods Takes Place among Leaders at Open ; McIlroy, in Front with 66, Leads Group in 20s Who Challenge Status Quo

Article excerpt

And Rory McIlroy, in front with 66, led a group in their 20s who were challenging the status quo.

Tiger Woods abruptly stopped during his downswing on his second shot, from the tall grass, at Royal Liverpool's 18th hole. After it took him 10 holes to gain momentum, why did Woods violently brake on his swing with the end of his first major round in 11 months clearly in sight?

"Because people were taking pictures," Woods said.

After back surgery forced Woods to miss the first two majors for the first time in his professional career, his thoroughly chronicled return was suitable for framing. Woods made five birdies in a six- hole stretch on the inward side to post a 3-under 69, three strokes off the pace, set in the morning, by Rory McIlroy.

Woods, idle for nearly four months before playing two rounds in 7- over at the Quicken Loans National three weeks ago, opened with a bogey, same as when the tournament was last held here, in 2006. He was 2-under through 15, same as eight years ago, when he opened with a 67 on his way to his 11th major victory.

The difference between then and now was that Woods played Nos. 16 and 18, both par-5s, in 3-under in 2006 and 1-under on Thursday. After aborting his approach shot, Woods did well to salvage a par at 18. Upon regrouping, he hit into a bunker and had an awkward stance for his next shot. Woods hit out to 20 feet and two-putted for par.

"I had a good lie but I didn't have much of a swing," Woods said. "I played pretty conservatively there."

Woods, who hit 10 fairways and 14 greens, was much sharper around the greens than in his return last month at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. He played the outward nine in 1-over, the same score as John Singleton, the local factory worker and overwhelming fan favorite, who advanced through qualifying. Singleton finished with a 78.

Woods's slow start -- he was 2-over after two holes -- did not worry him. "I'm not going to be the only guy to make two bogeys," he said. "I just got mine early."

In 2006, a par save at the par-5 10th proved pivotal to his round. On Thursday, a putt for a birdie 3 at No. 11 was the spark. "It was a tough little putt," Woods said. …

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