Woods easily bettered Spieth and Johnson in the gallery stakes, but his play, sadly for him, was far from being up to scratch. “Obviously none of us like playing in rain, but I think you want a 15, 20 mile-an-hour wind blowing on this golf course, otherwise the players just murder it basically”.
At just 21, the Texan has the world at his feet, yet there has not been a trace of ego as he prepared for his first Open Championship at St Andrews.
Yet the 31-year-old adjusted best to the conditions on the Scottish coast, with a 7-under 65 to hold the lead after the first day’s play.
“No chat about the U.S. Open at all, as I wouldn’t imagine there would be, ” Spieth said.
This was hardly a two-man show.
He was the clubhouse leader, one shot ahead of 1999 champion Paul Lawrie, two-time US Open victor Retief Goosen, Australian Jason Day and little-known American Robert Streb. Zach Johnson and Danny Willett played in the afternoon as the wind strengthened, making their 66s even more impressive.
Sir Nick Faldo, the 1990 champion at St Andrews, finished last on 11 over after an error-strewn round which included a duck hook off the 13 tee and a lost ball in rough to the left of the 14 fairway.
“You’d think that should help me and I am really looking forward to the next three days”. He now has made 53 birdies in nine rounds at the majors this year, an average of roughly one birdie every three holes.
“I know that today is a very benign day and guys have been shooting good numbers. Unfortunately, I did not do that”.
Woods hit a shaky iron shot off the first tee, which might be the easiest opening hole in major championship golf when playing downwind. Mickelson made only one bogey on the back nine and shot 70.
“We are going to have as many people out there as possible with squeegies and pumps”, he told the BBC, adding that a break in the weather was expected later in the morning.
Three straight pars for Woods followed, including a fine four at 17, the notorious Road Hole, where birdies are rare and bogeys are common.
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The 39-year-old, dressed in sober grey like numerous golfers, managed to get down in two from the drop but still bogeyed his fifth opening hole in his last seven major starts.
With a weather delay Friday, he could play his last Open with just a smattering of fans to watch him cross the Swilcan Bridge for one final time. Spieth shot 67 and was two behind Dustin Johnson, who played in the same group.
“For whatever reason, I just didn’t have anything going on the greens”. Johnson, in fact, insisted earlier in the week it took him “not long at all” to get over the U.S. Open loss, as if he was brushing off a casual backgammon loss to fiancée Paulina Gretzky. Only Ben Hogan has won the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open in the same year.
“It really is an unbelievable preparation for what I do for a living”, Spieth said in this video.
His 76 was his worst score on the Old Course in four Opens here, two of which he won in 2000 and 2005.
The key for Spieth in the first round was to stay close, and that’s what he did – not in driving distance, but by score, which ultimately is all that matters.