It's been five years since Tiger Woods has won a major championship. And despite four victories and a return to No. 1 in the world in 2013, majors are how he is measured now.
After his first 18 holes of the 142nd British Open, Woods at least found himself in contention.
Woods shot an up-and-down 2-under 69 to leave him three shots behind early leader Zach Johnson.
SOLID START: Mickelson opens with a 69
BRITISH OPEN: Zach Johnson takes early lead
LEADERBOARD: 142nd British Open
Woods played the first round with 2010 U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell (Louis Oosthuizen withdrew after nine holes with an injury). We'll track their progress, hole by hole, throughout the first round.
No. 18, 470 yards, par 4: The closing hole has been a beast, playing to a par of 4.44. Uh-oh ... two tee shots miss the fairway, Woods just barely, McDowell farther off line. McDowell is forced to lay up; Woods, with a better lie, swings violently and fires it out of the rough and just short of the green. McDowell's third is a beauty, and he'll have a chance to save par. Woods' putt from off the green, about 90 feet, is decent, and he will have 6 feet to save par. McDowell misses his putt and finishes up with a 4-over 75. Not his best. Woods makes his par and is in with a 2-under 69.
No. 17, 575 yards, par 5: This hole has taken a beating, as expected, downwind from the tee. It was playing to a par of 4.6 when Woods and McDowell got there. Woods finds the fairway, McDowell ends up in a fairway bunker. McDowell chops out of the bunker and then fires his third which rolls and rolls and rolls ... and despite landing in a bunker off the tee, he will have a good look at birdie. Woods knocks his second onto the green and will have 25 feet uphill for eagle. He gets it close enough for a tap-in birdie and is back to -2. McDowell can't get the birdie try to go ... another par to stay at +3.
No. 16, 186 yards, par 3: Woods misses long off the tee and will have to get up and down for par. McDowell, who needs something good, finds the green off the tee. Woods knocks his tricky second to within 3 feet to save par. McDowell's putt gets in the vicinity of Woods' ... each should save par. Woods stays at -1, McDowell stays at +3.
No. 15, 448 yards, par 4: Woods hits his 3-metal off the tee and splits the fairway. McDowell found the rough with his tee shot, and a fairway bunker with his second ... he was trying to lay up. Woods fired a 6-iron high in the air and landed it relatively softly about 25 feet from the flag. Woods cozies it up for a tap-in par to stay at -1. McDowell ends up with a double bogey and is now at +3.
No. 14, 475 yards, par 4: Woods finds the fairway again, with an iron ... meaning he'll have a long second. McDowell with a fairway metal finds the fairway, too. Woods had about 240 to the flag and finds the front of the green with his second. Long birdie putt, but safely on the putting surface. McDowell was 15 yards short of the green after two, but will have about 5 feet for par. Woods putted it off the green! Now he will have a not-so-easy up and down to save bogey. His par putt goes past, leaving 4 feet to save bogey. He got that one for his three-putt but drops back to -1. McDowell is at +1.
No. 13, 190 yards, par 3: Woods knocks it onto the green safely enough, a 9-iron to about 25 feet above the hole ... but the birdie putt will be no picnic. Or maybe it will be .... Woods bends it in for his third birdie in four holes, with a great par save as the other, and now he's at -2. McDowell makes par to stay at +1.
No. 12, 379 yards, par 4: Woods hits the stinger off the tee and finds the fairway again. He's hit the green in regulation five holes in a row. It should have been six in a row, but from 148 yards Woods flares it left and trickles it into a greenside bunker. Trouble brewing. After going birdie-birdie, then this; he can't stand prosperity. McDowell came up short of the green with his second. He pitches it up to about 4 feet for par. Woods' ball is near the wall; one foot in the bunker; one knee on the ground outside. He improvises, blasts it out to about 6 feet. Not an easy par save ... but he makes it. He will stay at -1. McDowell stays at +1.
GALLERY: THURSDAY AT THE BRITISH OPEN
No. 11, 387 yards, par 4: Another solid tee shot from Woods, iron off the tee. (We should point out that Shiv Kapur of India is 6 under through 7 holes.) His second from 128 is solid, bouncing it softly and getting it to stop about 10 feet under the hole. He'll have a look at birdie. Bottom. Back-to-back birdies for Woods, and he is under par for the first time in the tournament, -1. McDowell makes another par to stay at +1.
No. 10, 469 yards, par 4: Woods and McDowell both find the fairway with their tee shots; McDowell because he got a good bounce out of the rough. A good approach from Woods, a good putt and a birdie. Amazing how that happens when you find the fairway and then the green. Woods moves to even par. McDowell makes par and stays at +1.
No. 9, 554 yards, par 5: Oosthuizen has just withdrawn from the Open. It could be wrist pain from weeks ago but there is not real indication.It could also be his neck. Chance for everyone to get healthy with the final par 5 on the front and final hole on the front period. McDowell, with the wind in his face, puts it into the left hand rough. Woods puts his right but he's not buried. Going to probably take three to get on the green. Woods would end with par to remain a +1. That is back-to-back missed opportunities for Woods. Worse was McDowell who took double-bogey and is also +1 now.
No. 8, 441 yards, par 4: Nice and safe on the tee shot for Woods. His approach shot from 161 yards is nothing short of fantastic. Easily his best shot of the day. For pessimists, the 5-foot putt is above the hole and that has caused problems for some players today as they go downhill. McDowell gets the third birdie of the day on No. 8 with a 25-footer. Just a perfect touch. He's now -1. Woods' short birdie putt is wide left and he'll settle for a disappointing par to remain +1. The putt never was on line as he trailed left from impact. Opportunity missed. Oosthuizen continues to go south with another bogey and he's +4.
No. 7, 184 yards, par 3: Woods finds the green without incident. The birdie putt is close, but not close enough. Par. He will stay at +1. McDowell also is in with par. Oosthuizen made double bogey.
No. 6, 461 yards, par 4: Woods' tee shot with a 3-wood finds fairway. He had 169 yards to the hole, back right, and he was long and right with the approach. Balls are just not stopping. McDowell, from just in front of Woods in the fairway, can't stop his approach on the green either. Uh-oh. Woods chips it up, but he didn't give it enough oomph, and it rolls back down off the green and into the rough. Clearly unhappy, Woods released some muffled expletives. Some, not that muffled. Now he better be careful or double bogey is in play. McDowell meanwhile chips up from off the green and will have a only a few feet for par. Alas, he missed it. Woods' fourth just ends up at the top of the crest and on the green. Making a mess of this one. Woods makes the 12-footer to save bogey. Could have been worse, but my goodness it could have been better. He was in fine position off the tee. McDowell bogeys, too, to fall to even. Woods drops to +1. Oosthuizen also is at +1.
No. 5, 559 yards, par 5: Woods and McDowell end up OK off the tee. Oosthuizen's tee shot, with an iron, won't stop running and rolls into a bunker. Oosthuizen can't reach in two, so he just plays it safe out of the bunker. Woods and McDowell have to wait for the green to clear ... they can reach in two. McDowell finds the green and will have a look at eagle. Tiger, from just in the rough, has a good angle, ends up 20 yards short of the green. He could putt, chip and run or lob one up there. His lob was not outstanding, and his putt slips 4 feet past. Tricky par saver now. The greens are fast, like putting on a tabletop. Woods saves par to stay at even for the day. McDowell has his first birdie of the day to get to -1. Oosthuizen makes par to stay at +1.
No. 4, 226 yards, par 3:
Woods fires a beauty off the tee and knocks in his birdie putt to get back to even par. So after the disaster off the tee at No. 1, all is well again. For now. Another par for McDowell, and a bogey for Oosthuizen. Woods and McDowell are eve, Oosthuizen is at +1.
No. 3, 377 yards, par 4: After a great tee shot, Woods' approach finds a greenside bunker, leaving a very awkward stance. The blast out stops a couple of feet from the hole. A tap-in par for Woods. Pars all around. Woods, +1, Oosthuizen and McDowell, even.
No. 2, 364 yards, par 4: Woods finds the fairway with his tee shot — iron off the tee — then knocks his approach to within birdie range. Oosthuizen, also from the fairway, knocked his approach inside Woods' to within about 3 feet for birdie. Woods' putt, a downhiller with 6 inches of break, slips past on the low side. He taps in for par. Oosthuizen makes birdie to get back to even, and McDowell adds another par. Woods +1, McDowell and Oosthuizen are even.
No. 1, 447 yards, par 4: Well, Woods' British Open started about as bad as it could have ... a tee shot with a 3-wood into waist-high rough. It was his first shot in competition since the U.S. Open ... where he was last seen dealing with a strained left elbow. The tee shot was so bad, Woods hit a provisional. The ball was found, but Woods had to take an unplayable lie. He took his drop and chopped it out of the thick rough and into a greenside bunker. His blast out of the bunker stopped about 3 feet short of the hole, and he ended up with a bogey. Not the worst score possible after that dreadful tee shot. Oosthuizen also made bogey; McDowell, after a fine tee shot, makes a safe par.