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Tiger Woods grateful to return to The Open

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Tiger says the fairways are faster than the greens (0:43)

Tiger Woods talks about the conditions at Carnoustie for The Open as he begins the quest for his fourth career Claret Jug. (0:43)

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- An unusually warm and dry British summer has Carnoustie hard and fast and Tiger Woods channeling a bit of 2000 St. Andrews and 2006 Royal Liverpool in assessing the course in advance of The Open.

Those instances account for two of his three Open victories, where in both cases the courses were quite dry and firm. Woods is playing the tournament for the first time since 2015 after missing the past two years due to back issues.

"I have missed not playing The Open in a while because this is our oldest tournament," Woods said. "And then coming here to Carnoustie, it is special. This is my fourth time playing it as a tournament. From my first time coming here as an amateur to being back now, it's just amazing how this course doesn't change. It is right in front of you. It's hard. It's probably the most difficult one we play in the whole rotation."

Woods was referencing his first visit to Carnoustie at age 19 in 1995 -- his first time playing a links course -- and subsequent Opens he played. Woods tied for seventh in 1999 and tied for 12th in 2007.

After spending part of Saturday at a corporate outing for Nike in London, Woods attended Wimbledon, where he watched part of the men's semifinal followed by the women's final.

He then traveled north, came to the golf course late in the afternoon and got in an abbreviated practice round of eight holes, teeing off at No. 1 and playing the first four holes before jumping over to the 15th and playing back to the clubhouse.

If Sunday's small sample size is an indication, he won't be needing the driver much this week. He hit just one on the first hole, and that was only after first hitting a 2-iron off the tee.

The course is already rife with examples of players finding the ball going extraordinary distances, whether it be due to the wind or the firm and fast conditions. For example, Woods hit a 7-iron off the No. 4 tee to position himself short of bunkers; it went 215 yards. His normal distance with that club is 180.

"Right now the fairways are faster than the greens," he said. "I am sure they will probably speed the greens up a touch, but I'm sure this will be one of those weeks where the fairways are a little quicker than the greens."

As for adjusting to the links style of play and learning how far to hit shots on each hole, Woods said: "It is mainly trajectory. You can get the same numbers [yardages] with different trajectories. That's what is going to be important, how hot you want the ball coming into the fairways. You can really make the ball roll 60, 70, 80 yards. Is it really worth it or not? Some of the holes, can you carry bunkers? It is a risk/reward golf course, and the way it is set up right now, it is going to play very narrow because it is so fast."

This will be Woods' 20th Open appearance, having missed the tournament in 2008, 2011, 2016 and 2017. That experience had him downplaying any huge adjustment, but he did admit that "we have a long way to go, and I have to spend the next few days getting a feel for this type of golf again."

For the first time, Woods commented on the proposed $10 million, winner-take-all match with Phil Mickelson that has previously been reported but not yet finalized.

"We are still working on it," Woods said. "It's not there yet, but certainly we are working on it and trying to make it happen."

Woods smiled when told that Patrick Reed earlier this week suggested that he would watch the two Hall of Famers compete in such a match only if they put up their own money.

"Well of course that's what he would like to see," Woods said. "I would like to see him put up that money."