You didn't think Tiger Woods would let you forget him, did you?
In his first major round of 2014, one of his first competitive rounds since March, Woods took advantage of some very un-British conditions to turn in an Open Championship performance that ought to have him sticking around until Sunday. Woods wrapped his round at -3, good enough to have him tied for eighth at the time. Yep, he's going to tease everyone once again.
The day began ugly with two bogeys, and it appeared Woods' Open could be over before most of the players even awoke. But he settled down, made the turn at +1, and then began a run that would redefine both his scorecard and his hopes for this major championship.
"Unfortunately, I got off to a horrific start," Woods said after the round, "but I fought back."
Woods played the kind of conservative golf that's necessary to compete at an Open Championship. He didn't even take his driver out of the bag until No. 16. By then, he was at the tail end of a run of five birdies in six holes, a stretch that had him just two shots off the lead. He closed with two pars, minimizing the impact of mistakes on both holes.
Of course, not everyone was thrilled with Woods' game. Check what happened to this course marshal on 17, who took a Woods drive to the face:
Ouch. Fortunately the drive took a hop before it bounced off the fellow's face, otherwise that could have been a lot uglier.
Woods' performance no doubt will have a certain segment of the golf-watching public convinced that he's about to win his 15th major. Let's throw a sprinkling of cold water on that speculation. First off, the weather on Thursday was absolutely exceptional. The greens were flat and slow, the wind nonexistent. With heavy weather expected to roll in by Saturday, Woods will be facing down the elements for the rest of the way.
More to the point, Woods has played four rounds of tournament golf exactly one time this year. This is just his second tournament after returning from back surgery, so it's fair to wonder how his body will hold up to four days of what will be a grueling run at Hoylake. He'll be facing players well accustomed to the tournament grind, and even a single miscue at the Open Championship can cost a player multiple strokes.
"I'm three back, I'm right in the mix," Woods said. "With weather rolling in in the next couple days, it's good to get this round in."
It's a long way to Sunday and many holes and hazards between Woods and the Claret Jug. Even so, Thursday's performance has to give both him and his fans a decent measure of hope, both for this week and the future.