James Lawton: Woods has a bad day – but his recovery is rarely far away

Even when everything goes wrong for Tiger Woods, as it pretty much did yesterday, you know he will avoid the affliction of the poor souls who have laboured so long in his shadow. He will not stop believing in himself. He will not see a threat or a problem that cannot be resolved from within his own nature and talent.

It is not the doctrine of infallibility – no one who fired as many loose shots as he did while Tom Watson, 26 years his senior, showed precisely how you master this celebrated but virtually defenceless course, could begin to flirt with such a concept.

However, if Tiger accepts he can do wrong he also believes that every time he does and loses, which is the likelihood that grew maybe inexorably as he returned to the clubhouse six shots behind the 59-year-old who won the second of his five Open titles here in 1977, it is simply because he was just a little too slow to find the remedy for a passing problem.

On the way to his first-round, one-over-par 71, as Watson was combining a near faultless exhibition of course management with an extremely amiable impersonation of Jack Lemmon, Woods became increasingly exasperated by his failure to exert anything like control either over himself or the rest of the field. When he pulled his tee shot at the third into the scaffold of a television tower he yelled "Goddamit" and tossed his club aside.

At the 16th he was equally inflamed when he aimed for a safe place on the left side of the pin, completely misplaced his shot and left it plunging into the Wee Burn at the foot of the steeply sloping green. Then, when he played his third shot from the top of the opposite bank, you had still another reminder of why Tiger might believe he has never had a problem truly beyond the scale of his talent.

It was a chip shot of almost supernatural control, stopping dead just a few feet beyond the flag. Lee Westwood, who with the 17-year-old Japanese prodigy Ryo Ishikawa, always had an edge on his illustrious playing partner, was happy enough to take a double-bogey in an identical crisis at the same hole.

Even after Woods squandered chances of an eagle and birdie at the 17th and 18th and growled, "What's wrong with you, Tiger?" he made it clear that the solution lay just around the corner on the driving range.

"Yes, I made a few mistakes today," he said, "but hopefully tomorrow I can play a little better, clean it up and hit it, get myself heading in the right direction. I'll go on the range and work on it for a little bit, and then I can hit it a little better this afternoon and get ready for tomorrow."

It was in the end just a little matter of patience. Watson could recreate more than a hint of the old glory that invaded this beautiful course on the banks of the Firth of Clyde when he beat Jack Nicklaus in one of the most spectacular final rounds in the history of major tournament golf, he could move from one birdie opportunity to another with the easiest precision, but the toll of the years would wear him down soon enough.

Other veteran Open champions like Mark Calcavecchia and Mark O'Meara might make a better job of mastering conditions but just for a day or two, you sensed Woods was saying, and then Tiger would move into his place at the head of affairs.

He would get it right. In another man this might be dismissed as delusional. In Tiger it is an article of faith which explains why most accept that he is the greatest golfer who ever lived.

There were no mysteries, no blazing concerns, after the brief suspension of this belief. "Well, I certainly made a few mistakes today," he said. "Realistically, I should have shot one-under or two-under. I hit a couple of shots to the right and three-ripped from 15 feet and I didn't take advantage at the 17th.

"I was hitting irons out there today [he picked the driver just three times] because the wind was down. Most of the holes I would normally be hitting three-wood. No wind, so the two-iron goes to the same spot. We were just playing to the same areas, whether it's two-iron, three-iron, or whatever – we're just playing how we think the golf course should be attacked. You look among the guys who are playing well out there and you see a lot of the older guys, and three former Open champions in Tom, and the two Marks, Calca and O'Meara. They obviously understand how to play the course. They don't try to overwhelm it."

Three years ago Tiger adopted a similar policy in Hoylake, winning his third Open while using the driver just once over four rounds. Yesterday he never began to produce such a winning rhythm. When his body language wasn't mean it was despairing. "Yes, I got frustrated. I wasn't playing well, he admitted. "But the misses I had were the same shots I was hitting on the range so I need to go work on that and get it squared for tomorrow."

At two under and one under, Woods' playing partners Westwood and Ishakawa could both claim to have produced the superior course management. Mostly they hit their shots more sweetly than Tiger and their moments of frustration were concealed rather better.

Westwood said: "I would probably have taken a 68 at the start of the day, and I'm pretty pleased with how I handled the course." Ishikawa, known as the Bashful Prince in his homeland, was suitably modest, saying he was nervous to play with the Tiger and optimistic about beating the cut.

For the Tiger there was only the old imperative. It was to go away and work and reinvent himself and come back and destroy anyone with the temerity to stand in his way. Muhammad Ali once declared that a sparring partner had dreamt he had beaten him – and promptly apologised.

Here such an apology may not be required. But then maybe we should wait a little while. Tiger, after all, has a day or two more to get things right, and it would not be the first time that he made his world of golf stand still.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
life
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Sport
footballLive: Latest news from Champions League draw
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
tech
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
News
news
News
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?