St. Andrews, Scotland (CNN)"Buried and done." Three of his own words chased Tiger Woods around St. Andrews Thursday.
The Open 2015: Tiger Woods toils at 'benign' St. Andrews
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Perhaps he regrets acknowledging the view he thinks is held by a section of reporters regarding his quest to match Jack Nicklaus' tally of 18 career majors.
But Thursday's efforts, on a benevolent day in the east of Scotland, only reinforced the belief that the 14 he sits on now will be the number he sits on forever.
Woods' score of 76 was his highest at the home of golf, and his worst opening round at the British Open -- a tournament he has won three times.
Already, the man who used to dominate the world of golf has been reduced to praying for inclement weather.
"I know that today is a very benign day," he told reporters. "Guys are going to go low. Guys have been shooting good numbers. Unfortunately I did not do that.
"Hopefully the conditions will be tough tomorrow and I can put together a good round and we'll move up the leaderboard progressively.
"I'm so far back and the leaderboard is so bunched that in order for me to get in there by Sunday, I'm going to have to have the conditions tough and put together some really solid rounds."
Asked if motivation was an issue after his poor start, Woods replied: "No, motivation is never a problem with me."
Determination is a given with Woods, as exhibited by his press conference on Tuesday.
"I know some of you guys think I'm buried and done," he told reporters prior to his 19th Open assault, nine years on from his last triumph. "But I'm still right here."
We've been "right here" frequently of late; Woods, steely eyed and serious, insisting he isn't over the hill, that number 15 is round the corner.
It's been a long corner.
Back in 2008, when he won his last major at the U.S. Open, George W. Bush was president of the United States and China was preparing to host its first Olympic Games.
Rarely does such weight rest on the utterances of the world No. 241.
But this is Tiger Woods, this is his "favorite golf course" and maybe, just maybe, this is the tournament that will jolt his game back into life.
As such, this major championship started like they all do when he's around, with a bumper crowd on the first tee and a prickle of excitement in the air.
Five minutes later, when Woods plonked his second shot of the day into the Swilcan Burn to gasps and groans from the gallery, the soundtrack to his Thursday was set.
By the time he dropped another shot at the second hole, the jokes had already started.
One fan turned to his pal and, pretending to make a phone call, said: "Err Tiger, we're gonna need that rental car back tomorrow night."
A pair of pars followed before a scratchy fifth hole, where Woods hacked out of the rough, yielded another bogey.
At this point another disgruntled spectator whispered to a friend: "I thought betting on Tiger to finish in the top 20 was easy money -- turns out it was a waste of money."
More sighs greeted a miscalculated approach to the seventh green, and by the time he sloped off the ninth he was four over for the tournament and already 10 shots off the lead.
At the same point back in 2005, Woods had played just 32 shots on his way to a round of six under par. He led from start to finish to record a second St. Andrews triumph.
A decade later, the landscape has shifted. He's still right here, but fans flock to see him more in hope than expectation. And already, the chase is on to anoint the new Tiger Woods.
The latest candidate, Jordan Spieth, was two groups in front of Woods and enjoying a much better day, finishing on five-under 67, two shy of leader Dustin Johnson -- the man he beat to the U.S. Open crown last month.
The Texan, who turns 22 on July 27, has rejected the "new Tiger" tag as "unfair" -- even though in winning the first two majors of this season, he has twice as many that Woods did at the same age.
He arrived late to St. Andrews after picking up his third PGA Tour title at the John Deere Classic in Illinois, sharpening his game on a simulator of the Old Course instead of practicing on the windswept seaside links so prevalent in Scotland.
Virtual reality was no match for feeling the full force of the breeze on your face, argued Woods, but as they passed each other on the 10th hole the contrast in both demeanor and form was stark.
Despite chatting away merrily for most of his round with playing partners Jason Day, of Australia, and South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen, frustration almost engulfed Woods on the 12th.
After a fluffed chip Woods threatened to smash his club into the turf, before he checked himself and trudged to the green to make par instead. By this stage, he'd sunk to five over.
The 14th offered his loyal followers a rare moment of cheer -- a birdie there lifted him a little further from last place.
On the next hole a toddler was merrily escorted off the fairway by a steward after tottering under the ropes and towards Woods. Her mum apologized profusely: "Sorry, she just loves Tiger!"
The rot had at least been stopped, and despite the lament of a patron when a simple chip rolled up short on 17 -- "he's just turning up these days" -- he did at least make a tricky putt to save par.
Once upon a time, roars and fist pumps greeted birdies, now it is a gentle cheer and polite applause he accepts merely for hanging in there.
A second ovation up the first fairway followed -- that's where Woods' drive off the 18th tee landed -- but his birdie putt fell short and the ovation he received after tapping in for par seemed to be laced with a tinge of sympathy.
He was at least sanguine when he came into the mixed zone to speak to the press, the tone of questioning very different to that of Spieth, who was a mere five yards to his right.
"It is what it is," Woods said when describing how well he'd been hitting the ball on the range prior to his round.
"My best warmup I ever had in my career was in Germany. I hit the 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 300-yard signs, and then I started bogey, double bogey. That's the way it goes."
But perhaps the most telling quote came from Day, who was one of six players tied for second place after carding 66 -- one better than former Open champion Oosthuizen.
"It's tough to see your idol struggle," said Day.
"The good thing is, I saw him struggle a little bit before and he came back and got to No. 1, so I know he can get back out of this — it just depends how much he wants it."
By this time Woods was already in a car on the way back to his digs, no doubt steeling himself for another crack at the Old Course on Friday.