Woods in hunt at peaceful St. Andrews

Updated: July 15, 2010, 2:52 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- The place that has been so good to Tiger Woods was particularly benevolent Thursday -- for him and all those who were able to take advantage.

Woods shot 5-under-par 67 on the Old Course, matching his first-round score from 2005 and just one more than his tally in 2000 -- the two previous years he won the Open Championship at St. Andrews.

It was a good start for the three-time Open champion, who is trying for his 15th major championship but first victory this year.

And yet, he trailed Rory McIlroy by 4 shots and sees several other names above his on the leaderboard.

[+] EnlargeTiger Woods
Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty ImagesTiger Woods' only bogey in his first round came at the Road Hole. He has yet to play a bogey-free round in the 2010 season.

"With the conditions we had, you had to go get it," Woods said. "You had to take advantage of it. I felt like I did a pretty good job of that today, and I let the round mature. Most of the guys were under early, even though I wasn't, and I said, just let the round mature, just keep hanging in there and keep plugging along, and it could have been a pretty good round today."

Despite missing several opportunities early in his round, Woods stayed patient, getting his second birdie putt to fall at the seventh and playing his last 12 holes in 4 under par.

"There's no need to force it," Woods said. "Just go ahead and just capitalize on certain holes, and just because I'm 1 under doesn't mean I need to go force things. … I had plenty of holes left, but the conditions were benign and just go ahead and get it done. And it happened."

He made just one bogey for the day, and hit 14 of 16 fairways and 17 of 18 greens.

Using a new putter for the first time in 11 years, Woods needed 32 putts around the Old Course -- a number that might be a bit misleading because he drove the par-4 12th hole and 2-putted for birdie and also knocked it on the par-5 14th in 2 and 2-putted for birdie.

"I'm in good shape," said Woods, who played several groups in front of John Daly, who bolted to the top of the leaderboard early and settled for a 66, and McIlroy, who tied a major championship record by shooting 63. "I took advantage of a golf course when I needed to take advantage of it. As of right now, we're on the good side of the draw, but you don't know tomorrow. I mean, the weather is supposed to come in here at 11 [a.m.], but there's no weather, so we'll see."

After a nasty day Wednesday, the conditions were calm throughout the morning and never as bad as predicted. After noon, there was occasional rain and much more wind, but it was still a day to go low.

Woods got into trouble when his tee shot at the Road Hole, the par-4 17th, went into the left rough. From there, he was able to advance the ball to the front of the green, but he missed a 4-footer that would have saved par.

Then at the par-4 finishing hole, Woods drove his tee shot short of the swale known as the Valley of Sin. His putt from off the green came up short, and then he missed the birdie putt.

Woods is trying to become the first player to win three times at the same major championship venue (excluding Augusta National for the Masters) since Harry Vardon won his third Open Championship at Prestwick in 1914.

Woods won the 2000 Open here by 8 strokes and the 2005 Open by 5 shots. He also won in 2006 at Royal Liverpool in England.

This is just Woods' seventh tournament of the year and he hasn't played this many tournaments worldwide in a season without winning since 2001.

"He's playing intense golf right now," said Justin Rose, who has won twice recently on the PGA Tour and played in Woods' group Thursday. "You can tell he's intense and motivated. I don't think that's changed."

Bob Harig is the golf writer for ESPN.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com