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Tiger misses the wood for the trees
- Hennie Otto takes lead l Injured Montgomerie pulls out

Sandwich: Tiger Woods battled back from losing his ball with his first drive to stay in the hunt for the 132nd British Open on Thursday. But a string of other big names fell by the wayside at windswept Royal St George’s.

The world No.1 took a triple-bogey seven on the opening hole before hitting back on the treacherous Sandwich links to card a two-over-par 73 which left him five behind surprise first round leader Hennie Otto of South Africa who had to qualify to make the tournament.

Favourite Woods at least fared better than arch rival and tournament holder Ernie Els who stumbled to a sorry seven-over 78 and Briton Colin Montgomerie who did not make it further than the eighth hole before pulling out with a hand injury. Instead it was left to the likes of 48-year-old Australian Greg Norman, the Open winner last time it was played at Royal St George’s in 1993, and Tom Watson, 53, to help provide the fireworks.

Twice-winner Norman managed an eagle at the long fourth and two birdies to lie just a stroke off the little-known Otto’s lead alongside American Davis Love III after a round of 69. Fredrik Jacobson of Sweden and South Korean S.K. Ho had 70s to complete the only five men under par in a 156-strong field.

Watson, a former five-times champion whose first win came in 1975 before Woods was even born, would have joined them at the top of the leader board had not a double-bogey, bogey finish not sent him back to level 71.

India’s Jyoti Randhawa was lagging way behind at 80.

The 27-year-old Woods had showed impressive reserves of patience and determination to battle back after his dismal start in light rain and strong winds following a pushed opening drive into thick rough 10 yards off the fairway. Despite the attentions of a group of marshals, caddies and other bystanders, the ball could not be located and he was forced to return to hit three off the tee for an ugly seven. But Woods has not won eight majors from 1997 for nothing and by the 18th hole had clawed his way back — four birdies offsetting three bogeys.

“I’ve kept myself in the tournament,” Woods said. “I just had to bear down and focus. You can shoot yourself straight out of this event and I just tried to be as patient as possible and kept myself right in there. It was frustrating to lose the ball at the first because the forecaddies told us they saw where the ball had gone but we just couldn’t find it.”

Els conceded seven bogeys in comfortably his worst Open return on his 13th attempt. He struggled for accuracy off the tee and was uncharacteristically tentative with his putting. The 40-year-old Montgomerie was forced to quit on the eighth hole because of a freak hand injury sustained when he fell over on his way to breakfast. He was four over par when the injury meant he could not continue and he left the course in a buggy.

“It is very painful,” Montgomerie said. “The rough didn’t help and even on the range I was having trouble. When I shanked my three iron at the sixth I realised that I shouldn’t continue. I tried to hit my second shot and it went about two yards because it was so painful to come through the ball.”

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