HOYLAKE, England - An upbeat Tiger Woods recovered from bogeys on his first two holes of the British Open yesterday to shoot a 3-under-par 69, surprising the skeptics, if not himself.
Woods had a stretch of five birdies in six holes starting on the 11th hole of Royal Liverpool, where he won the tournament in 2006. "I knew I could do it," he said.
Even if, in only his second tournament since back surgery March 31, no one else did.
Although Woods missed the cut in the Quicken Loans National in Bethesda, Maryland, last month, he called that tournament "a big steppingstone," explaining that he had no hesitancy in taking full swings.
"If this was my first tournament back," he said of the British Open, "I wouldn't know how explosive I could be, how hard I could go at it. I took care of those variables at Congressional. So I was able to go out there and play."
Woods teed off at 9:04 a.m. British time (4:04 a.m. EDT) and the day was clear with almost no wind. He said he was unfazed by the quick bogeys.
"I had four par-5s to go and a couple of short holes," he said. "So if I played those holes well, I'd be somewhere under par."
He's high on the leader board, three strokes behind Rory McIlroy, who had a 66.
"I need to get everything a little better," said Woods, who missed the Masters and U.S. Open while recovering. "But at Congressional I just made some terrible mistakes mentally. My decisions weren't crisp. Today was totally different, and consequently I shot a better score."
Woods said he was put off by all the ringing of cellphones, which are allowed at the British Open. In fact, there is Wi-Fi at all of the numerous grandstands set up around the course.
"I've had numerous years of dealing with this," he said. "There are a lot of moving parts out there. Wish they'd put it on silent. I've just got to stay focused and plod around out there."
Referring to the five-birdie stretch, a reporter wondered, "Did it feel like old times?" Woods acted dismayed, rolling his eyes.
"I did win five times last year," he reminded. He did, even though none of the wins -- or any since 2008 -- was in a major.