Woods opts to ignore driver

Burnley and Pendle Citizen: Tiger Woods is chasing a fourth Open title Tiger Woods is chasing a fourth Open title

Three-time Open champion Tiger Woods is looking to be a hit on his return to the venue where he won his last Claret Jug, but he made a different kind of impact in Sunday's practice round.

The 38-year-old spent his second day at Royal Liverpool reacquainting himself with the Hoylake links where he produced an emotional victory in 2006, two months after the death of his father.

During his full 18 holes he was followed by a healthy crowd keen to see the former world number one up close and free from the restraints which kick in when the tournament begins on Thursday.

However, one spectator got more than he bargained for when Woods pulled his approach to the 16th and his ball cannoned off the back of one young man and bounced on to the nearby 17th tee.

Woods duly called over to caddy Joe Lacava for a spare ball and duly handed it over with an apology to the unharmed fan.

Other than that the 14-time major winner, preparing for only his second event since undergoing surgery on his back in March, had a relatively uneventful round.

In keeping with the tactic which propelled him to victory on this course eight years ago - when he hit one driver in 72 holes - the American kept the big stick in his bag throughout.

While the course could in no way be said to be anything like the dry, hard-baked links of 2006, it made no difference to his strategy.

Even on the par-five eighth into the wind Woods used his three wood and still sent it out as far as playing partner Matt Kuchar hit his driver.

Many tee shots were with irons as the American, who has not won a major since the 2008 US Open, stuck to his game-plan of avoiding the dangers posed by Hoylake's bunkers.

It is a ploy which will not suit everyone, but fits Woods, often wayward with his drivers, perfectly.

"We play a different game off the tee. My driver is as strong as his three wood," said Kuchar.

"It's interesting to see his perspective and you can see him plotting the golf course to ensure you avoid the pot bunkers."

Fellow playing partner Gary Woodland, who chipped and putted his way around after his clubs were delayed in transit from the United States, added a fit and healthy Woods would be a threat at any major.

The fact he is here at all is a delight to north-west golf fans and is likely to add several extra thousand in admissions over the next week.

He was warmly received all the way round with a "Play well Tiger" and "Welcome back champ" at the fifth and 10th tees respectively, both earning a polite "Thank you".

A smiling Woods looked relaxed and on the 11th even broke off from his usual practice putting routine to have a go with Kuchar's long-handled putter.

The only time he broke into anything resembling a frown was when Ian Poulter gatecrashed the latter stages of his round.

Their relationship is not the best, having failed to see eye-to-eye a number of times, from the Englishman's interview in a 2008 issue of Golf World when Poulter said: "I haven't played to my full potential and when that happens, it will be just me and Tiger", to the time, according to the American's former coach Hank Haney, Poulter tried to hitch a ride on Woods' private jet.

Poulter appeared on the 17th green as Woods was putting out, but was ignored by the former world number one.

However, when the Englishman popped up again on the 18th fairway he received a glare from Woods.

The American, however, will no doubt be visualising being the only focus of attention walking down to the impressive surroundings of the 18th green on Sunday.

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