GULLANE, Scotland — Tiger Woods plodded along most of the day. He lipped out a putt from 2½ feet. He settled for a bunch of pars.
Then, with his final stroke, he looked like the Tiger of old.
Woods rolled in a 15-footer for birdie on Muirfield’s tough closing hole earlier today, raising his putter toward the blue sky with a flourish, fully aware he was positioned again to break the longest major drought of his career.
“It will be a fun weekend,” Wood said. “This golf course is going to be difficult.”
He finished with an even-par 71 that looked pretty good under the circumstances. This was another day for surviving the perilous, rock-hard setup, and Woods walked to the clubhouse just three shots behind first-round leader Zach Johnson, one of the last guys to tee off.
Not bad, considering Woods went through a stretch of 12 holes without a birdie before stealing one at the 18th.
“I was kind of fighting it,” he said.
Lee Westwood was one of the few morning starters to put up a score in the 60s, but even he was staggering a bit by the end. After a brilliant front nine — he carded five birdies — the 40-year-old Englishman bogeyed three of the last six holes to finish with a 68.
Still, he joined Woods and Henrik Stenson at 2-under 140 overall, solidly in contention for his first major title. The last English golfer to win the British Open was Nick Faldo in 1992.