Continued from page 1

“No, no. I just need to have better speed,” he said.

This performance will do nothing to quell the doubts about Woods being able to regain the dominating aura he possessed before his personal life made tabloid headlines.

He certainly hasn’t been the same player he was in 2000 and 2005, when he romped to dominating Open wins at the birthplace of golf, helping build a collection that has grown to 14 major titles, just four shy of Jack Nicklaus’ career record.

While wife Elin isn’t around for the third major in a row and Woods won’t discuss the state of his marriage, he has vowed to change his ways when he’s at the course, whether it’s cutting down on his temper-fueled outbursts or just being a more pleasant person.

He appears to be making headway, especially when paired with someone whose company he enjoys.

Sure, there were a few times when Woods muttered to himself about a poor shot, and he swung his club angrily after an errant approach at the second hole. But generally, there was plenty of banter, smiles, even a few laughs as he chatted with Clarke.

“We’re both focusing. We’re both playing. We’re both grinding, both trying to fight our way and get back in this tournament,” Woods said. “Granted, we’re great friends, but still, we’re competitors out there. We’re both trying to get ourselves back in the golf tournament so we can have a chance at winning it.”

That’s not likely to happen on Sunday. Paul Lawrie’s win at Carnoustie in 1999 was the greatest comeback in major-championship history, but it was only made possible by Jean Van de Velde’s historic meltdown on the 72nd hole.

Wood just keeps saying that he’s not that far off, just as he did after tying for fourth at the Masters and the U.S. Open.

“I’m playing well,” he said. “I’m playing better than, obviously, my position. I certainly have had a lot more putts on the greens than I ever have, and that’s something that has basically kept me out of being in the final few groups.”