Slow start, then returning Tiger lights up the Open

Thu Jul 17, 2014 1:30pm EDT
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By Martyn Herman

HOYLAKE England (Reuters) - "Glad you could make it Tiger", one fan shouted as the 14-times major champion marched off the first tee of the Royal Liverpool course in search of a fourth British Open title on Thursday.

Another one was not so generous as the 38-year-old Tiger Woods made a hash of a bunker shot minutes later on the way to a bogey, urging the American's ball to scuttle past the flag pole and into a tricky hollow.

Woods clearly belongs to a select group of sportsmen who divide opinion with their brilliance and occasional misdemeanors but when it comes to whipping up a frenzy of excitement, he has no peer.

American broadcaster ESPN are devoting a whole channel to Woods over the next few days and millions of words have already been filed on his prospects of victory here so soon after returning from back surgery.

Those already packed into a small stand around the first tee waiting for Tiger Time to commence at 9.05am watched his every move in almost reverential silence while scores of zoom lenses honed in on their target.

Only when stalwart Ivor Robson announced the three-times British Open champion did the cheers ring out across the sun-kissed course alongside the River Dee.

Woods offered a brief smile and a touch of his cap before putting on his game face and getting down to business.

With just two competitive rounds under his belt since the surgery in March that ruled him out of the year's first two majors, the early signs were not promising.   Continued...

Tiger Woods of the U.S. watches his second shot on the 16th hole during the first round of the British Open Championship at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, northern England July 17, 2014.        REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton