Woods, an overwhelming favorite to capture his second British Open title, surged to the top of the leaderboard early Thursday with seven birdies in a stretch of nine holes at St. Andrews.
Woods finally made a mistake at the 13th, taking bogey after failing to get up-and-down from one of 112 bunkers on the Old Course. Five years ago, he avoided the treacherous sand all four days en route to a record-setting eight-stroke Open victory.
He obviously got off a great start,'' said two-time U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen, and that's what he needed.''
The South African was right in the thick of things, joining English hopeful Luke Donald, two-time Masters champ Jose Maria Olazabal and Australian Peter Lonard at 4-under 68.
Goosen bounced back from his meltdown three weeks ago at Pinehurst, where he shot 81 after coming to the final day of the U.S. Open with a three-shot lead.
Pinehurst is pretty much history,'' he said. I wasn't thinking about it as all.''
Defending Open champion Todd Hamilton got off to a slow start, shooting 74.
Even with Woods' brilliant play in the early going, this was one of the rare occasions when he shared the spotlight with another player.
Nicklaus began his Open farewell with a flourish, clearing the Swilcan Burn with a short iron on his second shot and rolling in a 4-foot birdie putt. Tom Watson, a five-time winner of this event and one of Nicklaus' fiercest rivals in the 1970s, also started with a birdie at the first hole.
As the two strolled to the second tee, someone shouted, Another duel in the sun!''
So far,'' Nicklaus replied, managing a slight grin at the thought of his memorable showdown with Watson at Turnberry in 1977.
But the Golden Bear couldn't keep it going, struggling to a 75 even with a relatively light wind sweeping off the North Sea. He has some work to do if he wants to make the cut Friday.
The mood turned somber at noon, when St. Andrews joined the rest of the country in observing two minutes of silence to honor the victims of last week's terrorist attacks in London.
At least 52 people were killed and hundreds injured when bombs went off in three subway trains and a double-decker bus.
An airhorn signaled the brief suspension of play. Woods took off his hat, closed his eyes and bowed his head at the 14th hole.
Five years ago, Woods avoided the bunkers and set a major championship record at 19-under 269. His eight-stroke win was part of an unprecedented Tiger Slam'' -- four straight major titles, though not all in the same calendar year.
Woods certainly knows how to accept the torch from the player he grew up hoping to surpass as the greatest player ever. When Nicklaus said goodbye to the other three majors, Woods was the winner each time -- the 1999 PGA Championship at Valhalla, the '00 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, this year's Masters at Augusta National.
I wish he'd keep retiring,'' Woods said this week.
Woods has emerged from the second major swing change of his career to reclaim his status as the world's most feared player -- the Masters victory was followed by a runner-up showing to Michael Campbell at the U.S. Open three weeks ago.
The 65-year-old Nicklaus is more of a ceremonial player than serious contender, but the presumed end of his competitive career drew a large crowd to the Scottish seaside on a cloudy morning.
The cheers on the first hole turned to groans when Nicklaus barely caught the right side of the huge green at No. 2, three-putting from nearly 100 feet for a bogey that quickly knocked him off the leaderboard.
While acknowledging that his chances of winning were nil, Nicklaus hoped to make the cut and delay his final walk across the Swilcan Bridge until Sunday. It wasn't looking good after three straight bogeys on the back side.
When Nicklaus missed a 5-footer at the 13th, he bent over and dropped his putter in anguish. But there was plenty of sentimentality and emotion when he strolled up 18 -- perhaps for the next-to-last time. He took off his cap and waved to the cheering gallery.
Nicklaus won two of his record 18 major titles at St. Andrews and decided it was the most appropriate place to bring it all to an end. His son, Steve, handled the caddie duties. Jack's wife, Barbara, and two other sons, Gary and Jackie, were part of the gallery.
He's just so special, isn't he?'' a British fan commented while watching Nicklaus at the first hole. In every respect.''
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