HOYLAKE, England -- That bogey-bogey start was a first for Tiger Woods at The Open Championship.
But it was the way the 14-time major champion finished that was eye-catching on Thursday at Royal Liverpool, and his round of 69 left Woods a mere three strokes off Rory McIlroy's lead.
Woods, who was playing in his first major championship of the season after having surgery to repair a pinched nerve in his back in April, ended up making the turn in 1 over. But those four birdies on the homeward nine enabled him to vault into contention.
"I felt good," Woods said. "I felt good about a lot of things I did out there -- especially coming back after that start I had today, to fight my way back into the championship."
The round was Woods' eighth opener in the 60s in 14 appearances at the game's oldest major championship -- which he's won three times. Two of those ended in victory, most recently here at Royal Liverpool in 2006.
"It wasn't exactly the greatest of starts but I turned it around and ground my way through," Woods said. "... I felt like today someone was going to shoot 7- or 8-under par the way it was early. But the wind is picking up now. It was dancing all over out there."
One of those nasty pot bunkers on No. 1 led to the first bogey while a three-putt from 40 feet at the second produced the second. His first birdie came at the par-5 fifth -- which was not surprising considering Woods played the par 5s in 14 under when he won here in 2006.
Woods wasn't able to run the tables on the three par 5s on the back nine but he did manage his fourth and final birdie at the 577-yard 16th. So he's 2 under on those holes to start this championship.
Woods certainly looked much more in control of his game than he did three weeks ago when he missed the cut at the Quicken Loans National in his first start since the surgery. His rounds of 74 and 75 at Congressional may have set some tongues wagging but Woods saw the competition as pivotal in his return.
"If this was my first tournament back, not really knowing how explosive I could be, how hard I could go at it, the shots that I could play, all those were variables that I took care of at Congressional," he said. "So I was able to go out there today and play."
Woods also felt his decision making was better on Thursday at Royal Liverpool than it was during those two rounds in the tournament he hosts near Washington, D.C. And with the weather conditions expected to worsen as the week progresses, he was pleased to take advantage on a sun-kissed day.
"I'm not going to be the only guy in a 72-hole event to make two bogeys," Woods said. "I just got mine out of the way early. With the forecast the next couple of days supposed to be iffy, guys aren't going to go really low here. We're going to be bunched. ...
"If you look at the scores, there's a ton of players between 2- and 4-under par. And that's kind of the way this championship, I think, is going to unfold."
Woods was clearly bothered by some ill-timed photography while he was playing Royal Liverpool on Thursday morning. He wasn't sure whether the people taking the photos were professionals or fans using their mobile devices.
"Unfortunately people don't put their phones on silent or some of the professional guys were getting on the trigger a little early," Woods said.
The R&A quickly issued a media advisory and passed it out in the press center.
Tiger Woods’ tee shot sets up birdie on No. 13 at The Open