Tiger Woods made the most of what he called the easiest conditions he has seen at Royal Lytham on Thursday to fire an opening-round 67 and stand three strokes off the pace at the British Open golf.

While his score was one stroke off what he posted as an amateur in his 1996 visit to the Lancashire links course, Woods matched his best round since March to share the fourth place as he seeks his first major since the 2008 U.S. Open.

Woods sank a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-3 first, followed with a 20-footer at the fourth, added a 15-foot birdie at the sixth and birdied the par-5 seventh to reach four-under and sole possession of the lead briefly.

Sliding back

A bogey at 14 slid Woods back while Australian Adam Scott birdied five of seven holes in a back-nine binge to seize the lead at six-under 64.

Woods was among six major winners hot on Scott’s heels.

“It was pretty soft,” Woods said. “The wind wasn’t blowing. So we knew that we needed at least to get off to a quick start on that front nine and I figured a couple under would have been good. But I look up on the board and Scotty is going pretty low and so is everyone else. I felt I had to make a few more and I was able to.

“I'm very pleased with what I did today. I only hit one putt that was off line. But every putt was right on my start lines. I just needed to hit the putts a little bit harder.

“These greens are not quick with the amount of rain that they have had so I’ve got to make that adjustment.”

Almost unplayable

Woods mostly managed to avoid the deep rough he dubbed “almost unplayable” after his first practice round last Sunday. “I felt like I had pretty good control.

“I was shaping the golf ball both ways,” Woods said.

“We've got a long way to go. I got off to a positive start. We have a lot of golf left.” He added.

Jeev Milkha Singh made the most of perfect conditions on the front nine, but then failed to hold onto those early gains and ended with a modest even-par 70.

Jeev had four birdies on the first, third, ninth and 11th in the first 11 holes to be right on top of the leader board, but two bogeys (12th and 17th holes) and one double bogey (13th) against one more birdie (14th) in the last seven holes spoilt the great start.

He had a bogey on the seventh as well.

Daniel Chopra was four-over through 16 holes and Anirban Lahiri was yet to tee off.

The scores: 64: Adam Scott (Aus); 65: Paul Lawrie (Sco), Zach Johnson (USA); 67: Ernie Els (RSA), Bubba Watson (USA), Graeme McDowell (N. Ire), Tiger Woods (USA); 68: Jamie Donaldson (Wal), James Morrison (Eng), Thomas Aiken (RSA); 69: Matthew Baldwin (Eng), Adilson Da Silva (Bra), Thongchai Jaidee (Tha), Matt Kuchar (USA), Charl Schwartzel (RSA), Thorbjorn Olesen (Den); 70: Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind), Simon Khan (Eng), Kyle Stanley (USA), Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Esp), Vijay Singh (Fij), Thomas Bjorn (Den), Jason Dufner (USA), Martin Laird (Sco), Troy Matteson (USA).

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