ST ANDREWS, Scotland - In a field of 156 in the British Open, only three players dropped shots at the first two holes in yesterday's first round. Tiger Woods was the first.
This set the tone for Woods' round, as he toiled and tumbled to a 76, 4 over par and a share of 139th place. It was his worst pro round at St Andrews. A winner of two British Opens on the Old Course, in 2000 and 2005, the 39-year-old Woods can still make the halfway cut Friday, but don't count on it.
"I've just got to fight, fight through it," said a disconsolate Woods after his round. "Hopefully the conditions will be tough [Friday] and I can put together a good round and we'll move up the board progressively."
Four of Woods' five dropped shots came on the front nine, when the conditions were at their most inviting, but he recovered to grind out an even-par back nine, playing into quickening breezes.
"I hit it really good coming home and I made some clutch putts," Woods said. "I just needed to put those balls in position for birdies instead of for pars."
The first two holes on the Old Course are not intimidating challenges by British Open standards. The priority on the first hole is to deliver a wedge approach deep enough into the green that it does not spin back into Swilcan Burn at the front. But Woods didn't even clear the winding waterway. He just chunked his wedge shot straight in, 10 yards short of his target.
On the ESPN broadcast yesterday, former U.S. Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger described Woods' game as that of "a middle-of-the-pack hack." Azinger thinks Woods should abandon the swing changes he is undergoing with coach Chris Como. Every time Woods takes a step forward, like with his creditable tie for 17th at the Masters, he then takes two steps back, like with his 80-76 and missed cut at the U.S. Open.
Eight of the nine amateurs in the field bested Woods' score with American Jordan Niebrugge shooting a 67.
Woods tees off late Friday -- 2:56 p.m. (9:56 Eastern time) -- when the weather is expected to be changeable and with stronger winds than Thursday.