After his first shot of the 2013 Open Championship, Tiger Woods did not look like a contender for a 15th major and fourth Claret Jug. In fact, quite the contrary.
With a snap-hooked fairway wood off the first tee, it seemed Woods would bury his chances in the wispy grass around every turn at Muirfield.
Then he used the rules to his advantage and salvaged bogey. Another 17 holes later, Woods turned in 2-under 69 — an impressive score for his half of the draw — and found himself just three shots off the lead of morning-wave mover Zach Johnson.
Woods sits in the top 10, tied with the likes of Phil Mickelson, Angel Cabrera and 19-year-old Jordan Spieth, won became the first teen to win on the PGA Tour in 82 years at the John Deere Classic.
Of the seven players between Woods and the 36-hole lead, two are older than 50 (Mark O’Meara and Tom Lehman), one darn near 50 (Miguel Angel Jimenez), one has never made a cut in a major (Shiv Kapur) and then there are real threats like Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker.
If one was to take a shot in the dark at the leaderboard come the late Scottish dusk on Friday, there’s a decent chance Woods improves his stature, if not takes the lead. He’ll have a friendlier tee time, getting Muirfield before the unexpected Scottish heat wave can further brown out the course.
But does history suggest Woods will win?
In his three Open Championship wins, Woods shot 67 twice and 66 once. He shot no worse than 66 in the second round of those wins. This is Muirfield, frankly a stiffer test than the Old Course or Royal Liverpool. No fretting there.
Woods has only shot 69 to open in one of his major wins, the 2006 PGA Championship. Then again, it was really hot that week, too, in Tulsa. There, it was 100 degrees. It’s a bona fide heat wave in Scotland with temperatures in the 80s.
The world No. 1 wasn’t in the top 10 after Round 1 of his last major win, the 2008 U.S. Open. His 72 left him four shots back of the lead. He’s only three back of Zach Johnson.
Perhaps the best tell, however, of Woods’ chances comes tomorrow. In all 14 of his major championship wins, Woods has never failed to break 70 in the second round.