APTOPIX British Open Golf

Tiger Woods ducks away from sand after playing a shot out of a divot on the first hole of the British Open on Thursday in St. Andrews, Scotland. Woods made a double-bogey en route to a 6-over 78. Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — “Smile” came the plea from a wee lad in the three-rows-deep gallery as Tiger Woods, stony-faced and with his head bowed, slowly approached the fourth tee at St. Andrews.

An hour into his first round and the one major Woods just couldn’t miss – a British Open at the home of golf – was beginning with a real grind.

A tough-to-watch start had seen Woods chunk his second shot into the Swilcan Burn, before he missed a short putt to run up a double-bogey. Then came a three-putt for bogey at the third hole.

By the time he had dropped two more shots at No. 7 after driving into a bunker on the adjacent hole, Woods was 6-over par and looking as forlorn as the spectator following the 15-time major winner while dressed in a tiger onesie.

He finished on that number, with the 6-over 78 matching his second-worst round at golf’s oldest major and giving him only a remote chance of making the weekend in what might be his final Open at St. Andrews.

“Looks like I’m going to have to shoot 66 tomorrow to have a chance,” Woods said. “So obviously it has been done. Guys did it today. And my responsibility tomorrow is to go ahead and do it.”


Perhaps it was too much to expect Woods to contend this week, despite being one of the greatest players to pick up a golf club.

After all, he is playing on a right leg pieced together from a February 2021 car crash. It is only his third event of 2022 – all of them have been major championships – and first in nearly two months.

Woods, 46, said this week he has no idea how long he’ll be able to compete physically at the highest level because of his battered body. So it meant he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play St. Andrews, perhaps for one last time on the stage where he won two of his three British Open titles.

“This was always on the calendar, to hopefully be well enough to play it. And I am,” Woods said. “I just didn’t do a very good job of it.”

There was sentimentality behind the loud cheers he received when walking onto the practice putting green beside the first tee, where he did some light stretches for his right leg, and then the first tee itself.

Surely no other player ranked No. 996 has had such a reception.


And shouts of “Go on Tiger” followed him as he walked down the first hole, where he reached a tee shot that had settled in the middle of the fairway but in a fresh divot. Woods looked away after hitting his approach shot as dust flew up off his club face. When he turned back around, he saw his ball bounce into the stream guarding the green.

“Either just don’t hit it flat (or) don’t blade it,” Woods said. “I didn’t do either. But I still hit it in the burn.”

He took a penalty, pitched over the water and badly missed a putt of about 4 feet. It was a sign of things to come.

“I still struggled with hitting the putts hard enough,” he said. “Just because they look faster, and especially when you consider actually the fairways are faster than the greens, it’s just a different dynamic than we were accustomed to.”

Though there was no obvious sign of a limp, Woods walked gingerly along St. Andrews’ uneven terrain throughout a painfully slow round that took more than six hours to complete and was played in nothing more than a light breeze. His long, often silent waits at tees gave him time to ponder a slew of erratic shots on the front nine, which at least ended with a birdie after getting up-and-down from behind the green.

Woods displayed more emotions coming back, his competitive juices perhaps starting to flow. His frustration was evident after failing to hole a short putt for birdie at No. 12, and there was a wry smile after missing his par putt on the next.


A drive of more than 400 yards at the par-5 No. 14, which he two-putted for birdie, prompted whoops and hollers from the gallery, and there were more of them on the 18th when his drive rolled onto the front of the green, only for the ball to drop back into the Valley of Sin.

It summed up his round that he could only make par from there. As he removed his cap and saluted the spectators around one of the most storied greens on golf, Woods couldn’t hide his disappointment.

“I had my chances to turn it around and get it rolling the right way,” he said, “and I didn’t do it.”

ALL DRESSED in black, Phil Mickelson walked out onto the first tee at the Old Course with only a few hundred fans watching nearby and several boisterous seagulls cackling above.

His golf week was about to begin – a few days later than normal for a British Open champion at St. Andrews.

Mickelson said after finishing his opening round on even-par 72 Thursday that he didn’t attend the champions’ dinner on Tuesday because the R&A told him the club didn’t “think it’s a great idea you go.”


The American is among the players who have angered the PGA Tour and the golf establishment by joining LIV Golf, the Saudi-funded breakaway series which has caused a rift in the sport.

“The R&A contacted me a couple weeks before and said, ‘Look, we don’t think it’s a great idea you go, but if you want to, you can.’ I just didn’t want to make a big deal about it, so I said, ‘Fine,’” Mickelson said. “We both kind of agreed that it would be best if I didn’t.”

Mickelson isn’t the only former Open champion associated with LIV Golf. Two-time champion Greg Norman, the CEO of the breakaway series, was asked not to come to St. Andrews for the dinner because it might be a distraction. Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 champion at St. Andrews, was there, however.

Out on the course, Mickelson was introduced on the first tee to some light applause from the sparse crowd at exactly 7:30 a.m. With the claret jug perched on a podium nearby, the six-time major winner teed up and let it rip.

He had a better reception than the one afforded to Ian Poulter, another LIV Golf player, a few minutes earlier. Despite being a Ryder Cup great for Europe, the Englishman received some boos when he started off in front of the clubhouse on the first.

“Didn’t hear one,” said Poulter, who shot a 3-under 69. “I actually thought I had a great reception on the first tee, to be honest. All I heard was clapping.”


Along the course itself, both players got plenty of cheers and encouragement.

“I love being here,” Mickelson said after his round with three birdies and three bogeys. “Everybody here loves golf, and we find this place to be very spiritual. As great as this game has been to me, to be able to come here to the home and compete again – I think this is my sixth one here – I’ve had some great moments here.”

It’s not exactly clear how many more are in his future, however.

R&A chief Martin Slumbers, speaking about LIV Golf on Wednesday, threatened to change the British Open criteria, possibly making it more difficult for some players to gain entry to golf’s oldest championship. He said “there is no such thing as a free lunch.”

Mickelson, though, said he has had no regrets about his decision to go with the new series.

“I love the events,” he said. “I get to have golf in my life and competitive golf in my life on a scale that is fun, exciting, different, and lets me play and compete but still do the things outside that I want to do.

“I’ve got a nice trip lined up after this and things that I haven’t been able to do in the past. So, no, I couldn’t be happier.”

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