15th June, 2012
The fist pumps were back and there was even a hint of a smile as Tiger Woods looked like he was enjoying himself at a major championship for the first time in a long while.
The former world number one had every reason to be pleased after shooting a one-under-par 69 on a tricky opening day for scoring at the US Open yesterday when nearly everyone else struggled.
It marked the first time in a decade that he broke 70 in the first round of the US Open and left him perfectly placed to make a run for the title.
“I played well today. I felt like I had control of my game all day and just stuck to my game plan,” said Woods, who played in a high-profile grouping with Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson. “I felt very pleased with every facet of my game today.”
Even Woods’s playing partners were impressed after battling their way around the Olympic Club layout with Mickelson carding a 76 and reigning Masters champion Watson signing for a 78.
“That was the old Tiger. That was beautiful to watch,” said Watson. “That’s what we all come to see. That’s what we all want to watch.”
Starting his round from the ninth hole, Woods made a steady start, parring the first five holes before dropping a shot on his sixth, the 419-yard 14th hole.
He birdied the par-five 17th to get back to even then made two birdies in a row on the fourth and fifth holes, including a 30-foot putt that rattled into the cup, triggering a mighty roar from the huge gallery following the three Americans.
Even when things did not go right, there was no repeat of his boorish behaviour at the Masters in April when he slammed a club into the ground after hooking a tee shot and kicking one of his irons after hitting into a bunker.
The 36-year-old bogeyed the fifth hole but kept his cool and safely navigated his way through his final three holes.
Woods has not won a major since claiming a 14th at the 2008 US Open and has battled problems on and off the course since 2009 when the sordid details of his private life became public.
Many in the golf world have been waiting patiently for him to resurface and continue his chase of Jack Nicklaus’s record 18 majors and he came to the US Open in great form after winning the Memorial tournament two weeks ago.
“I know I have been hitting the golf ball this way and I was able to put it together in a major championship,” said Woods.
“I’m going to need it the next three days. This golf course is only going to get faster.”