Woods switches on the power to light up return

First competitive round since April produces a 68 while Westwood has best day on greens in two years


Perhaps it says much about the depths where Tiger Woods has resided that he skipped off a course where he has won seven times yesterday beaming at a 68 which left six shots off the first-round lead. But then, Tiger had his power back. And his eyes announced he feels the glory will be next.

To be fair, Woods had every right to be content. This was his first full competitive round in four months after injuries to his left knee and Achilles. "I was nervous on the first tee," he admitted. And as the drive sailed way right most experts were busy firming up their declarations that Woods would do well just to get in four competitive rounds before next week's USPGA Championship. Yet Woods had declared he was here to win. While the latter is still difficult to believe, the former should be the very least of his ambitions.

This was six shots better than his opening at Firestone last year, when he finished 18-over with just two golfers behind him. As the sun set on a steamy day that was a grim and distant memory. "This is huge progress," said the 35-year-old. "I hadn't really gone at it until today. But I'd done all the work, done all the training, done all the lifting, done all the rehab. It was time to let it rip."

Woods was shocked at how well he ripped it. "I was hitting proper shots out there and the distances I was hitting the ball – I hadn't hit the ball like this," he said, obviously excited about the Sean Foley overhaul. "I was hitting it so flush it was difficult getting my yardages."

His putter deserved complimenting, too. Woods called the huge par saves on three and nine as "key" and the 30-footer for a birdie on the 16th also fell in that bracket. Woods played an outrageous fairway wood from the rough under and around the trees on the par five. The lunge proved not only the fitness of his leg, but also the confidence in his swing. "I smoked it," he said. "I didn't think I could get that far down there."

How far can he go these next three days? Woods's said his objective was the same – win. But with Adam Scott on top the week is much more likely to finish in negative Woods headlines. The Australian's caddie is Steve Williams, the bagman sacked so coldly by Woods last month after 12 years and 13 majors together. How much the Kiwi must have enjoyed his new boss's 62.

While Woods' playing partner Darren Clarke hit a disappointing 77, the best of the Brits was Scotland's Martin Laird on four-under, but there was no one wearing a bigger smile than Lee Westwood. Armed with his new putting philosophy – and the words of a shrink ringing in his ears for the first time in his career – the world No 2 pointed to a future when his performance on the greens matches his mastery everywhere else.

"Even though I've won a few times, was third at the US Open and lost a play-off in the PGA, I haven't had a good putting week all year," said Westwood after his 67. "The frustration point was the Open."

As first revealed in Tuesday's Independent, that missed cut forced him to seek guidance from the mind guru Dr Bob Rotella and the putting coach Dave Stockton. The first inspired Darren Clarke to Open victory and the second inspired Rory McIlroy to US Open victory. Will both of them inspire Westwood to USPGA victory? His mood should not put off any would-be punters. "This was the best I rolled the ball in years," he said, explaining how he had been instructed not to grip the putt as tight and to take just one look at the hole before putting.

Rory McIlroy perfected that trick at Congressional and after coming back from being two-over after four holes to sign for a 68 there is a hint of his mojo returning. The five wood he hit to four feet from 234 yards for an eagle on the second (his 11th) was vintage Rory. This breathless day on a course favouring long-hitters who fly the ball is the reason he is on the brink of a Stateside relocation. "There might be other factors that led to this decision," he said. "But ultimately it's all about the golf."

Woods would say Amen to that.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power