The three-time champion, twice a winner at the Home of Golf, had arrived full of confidence after posting his first bogey-free round in almost two years on the final day of the Greenbrier Classic two weeks ago.
Woods declared at his pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday that he was not “buried and done”, only to return his worst Open score as a professional at the Old Course.
The former world No 1 hit two short irons fat in the opening two holes ??? the first landing in the Swilcan Burn ??? and managed just one birdie as he finished a full 11 shots behind early leader Dustin Johnson.
“I fought hard,” said Woods, whose only higher score on the Old Course is a 78 in 1995 as a 19-year-old amateur. “I made some mistakes, two bogeys with wedge in my hands and bogeyed a par five, so not ideal.
“I had a good number (to the first) but unfortunately hit it fat. Hit a nine??iron fat on two, drove the ball in two divots and had to play extremely??conservatively on those two shots. Just one of those mixed bags.
“I’ve got to just fight, fight through it. I know that today is a very benign??day. Guys are going to go low. Guys have been shooting good numbers.??Unfortunately I did not do that.
“Hopefully the conditions will be tough tomorrow and I can put together a good??round and we’ll move up the board progressively. I’m so far back and the leaderboard is so bunched that in order for me to get??in there by Sunday, I’m going to have to have the conditions tough and then??obviously put together some really solid rounds.”
Asked if it was tough to remain motivated after such a start, Woods added:??”No, motivation is never a problem with me. Discouraging, yeah. I was angered a??little bit. But I hit it really good coming home and I made some good clutch putts. I??just needed to put those balls in position for birdies instead of for pars.”
Playing partner Jason Day, who carded six birdies in a flawless 66, admitted it was tough to watch his boyhood idol??playing so poorly, adding: “He’s why I chased the dream of becoming a??professional. It’s tough.
“The good thing about it is I saw him struggle a little bit before and he came??back and got to number one, so I know that he can get back out of this, it’s??just depending on how much he wants it. It’s just tough to see your idol??struggle.”