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Woods quells injury fears after strong start fizzles out

By Carl Markham

Tiger Woods dismissed concerns over his stiff neck and expressed his disappointment at letting a good start slip in the first round of The Open at Carnoustie.

The 14-time Major winner, who has three Claret Jugs, was appearing at the tournament for the first time since 2015 because of injury problems and subsequent back operations.

Despite an uncharacteristically - for him - late start time of 3.21pm, two birdies in his first four holes saw the galleries grow around him as hopes were raised of seeing a return to the Woods of old who dominated Majors for more than a decade.

That start allayed any concerns which arose when the 42-year-old appeared on the practice ground with supportive tape running down his neck.

"Just helping me support my neck a little bit. Makes me feel a little bit more comfortable," he said of the taped support. "It's been bugging me for a while. Everyone acts like this is the first time I've been bandaged up.

"I've been doing this for years, braces and bandages, it's just this time it's actually visible."

Asked whether it affected his swing, he added: "A little bit here and there, but it's alright."

It did not appear to impede him as he turned in two under, three off the lead set by compatriot Kevin Kisner, after hitting seven out of eight fairways and six out of nine greens.

He used his driver only once in 18 holes - he still only made par at the long sixth - but drove a three-wood into a bunker at 10 for his first dropped shot, with more sand trouble at the 15th after three-putting the par-three 13th from 25ft.

He ended level with a 71.

"I played better than what the score indicates because I had two eight-irons into both par-fives and I ended up with par on both," Woods said. "If I just clean up those two holes and play them the way I'm supposed to with (an) eight-iron in my hand I think I'd probably have the best round in the afternoon wave.

"So it certainly could have been a little bit better. Just watching the board, the guys weren't doing much this afternoon and I felt like if I could shoot something in under par today, it would be good.

"I got off to a great start and I was right there. Unfortunately, it didn't quite turn out that way, but part of this afternoon wave, I was one of the lower rounds."

Meanwhile, Russell Knox admitted the aura of Woods affected his game as he recorded an unspectacular first-round 73.

The Scot arrived with confidence after winning the Irish Open earlier this month but, playing alongside Woods for the first time, he was below his best.

Knox began with bogeys on the first two holes and dropped three other shots, although an eagle on the 14th added respectability as he finished two over par.

The 33-year-old said: "I was reasonably happy with my score but I played dreadful. I just didn't feel normal.

"My swing - it was just like I had too much tension. I just wasn't letting it go as normal.

"But the first round with Tiger - I'd expected to feel a little bit different.

"It's cool playing with Tiger but I've got to get over that. I'm here to win, not just enjoy my walk around the course."

Despite that frustration, Knox was grateful for the experience.

He said: "I think he's the best golfer of all time. He's definitely the person I looked up to, so getting to play with him is pretty unique.

"I'm not going to lie, he's a person who I've seen on the range in the past and he's almost like a mythical figure.

"Of course I settled into it and enjoyed being out there and enjoyed playing with him."

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