GULLANE, Scotland - On a morning of sunshine, Tiger Woods spoke of gloom, about the last British Open at Muirfield when rain lashed, the thermometer plummeted and he shot his single worst round as a professional, a 10-over-par 81.
The Open Championship again is at Muirfield. So is Woods, who yesterday was besieged by questions about that tough third day in 2002 and about the five-year gap since his last victory in a major.
"The worst weather I ever played in," Woods said of the Saturday 11 years ago, "because we weren't prepared for it. There was a slight chance of a shower. The forecast was very wrong.
"A lot of the guys just had golf shirts and rain jackets. The wind chill was in the 30s. The umbrella became useless because the wind was blowing so hard."
He was two shots behind eventual winner Ernie Els after 36 holes, 11 back after 54. Still, Woods keeps returning to the Open and links golf, played on rock-hard fairways next to briny waters -- this week the Firth of Forth, off the North Sea.
"I love this championship," said Woods, who has won it three times. "Just think it's neat to be able to play this type of golf. Here and the Aussie sand-belt courses are probably the only places where we can play links-type golf, bounce the ball up, shape shots and really be creative . . . dink a 5-iron from 150 yards and bump it on the ground, or have 260 out and hit a 4-iron and it bounces over the green.
"That to me is pretty neat."
Not so neat is the fact that Woods hasn't won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open.
"Just a shot here and there," he said of his misses. "Getting a good bounce, capitalizing on an opportunity.
"This year at Augusta was one of those examples. I played really well and a good shot ended up having a bad break. It's turning the tide and getting momentum at the right time."
Woods' shot on the 15th hole in the second round of the Masters in April hit the flagstick and ricocheted into a pond.
Woods hasn't played competitively since last month's U.S. Open at Merion when, bothered by a sore left elbow, he shot his worst 72-hole score as a pro (13-over 293). The elbow has healed and Woods is upbeat.
"What a fantastic championship on one of the best venues," he said of Muirfield.
If, because of a male-only membership, a controversial one. That was an issue Woods did his best to avoid.
"I'm not a member here," he said. "So I'm not going to speak for the club."
Only for the game he will put on display there.
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