Tiger Woods to battle past struggles with slow greens at The Open

Tiger happy to be back at Carnoustie (1:19)

Tiger Woods explains what it means to him to be at to play at The Open this week. (1:19)

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- The golf course is fast, the golf ball is rolling forever and ever, and Carnoustie promises to see some unique strategy decisions this week during The Open.

That is true for Tiger Woods, who returns to the tournament for the first time since 2015 and for his fourth tournament -- and third Open -- at what is generally considered the toughest venue in the tournament rotation.

For Woods, putting is likely going to be the biggest issue.

"To be honest with you, I have struggled on slower greens throughout my entire career," Woods said Tuesday during a news conference at Carnoustie that preceded an afternoon practice round.

Woods said Sunday that "the fairways are faster than the greens," a testament to how firm and hard the course is due to an unusually warm and dry British summer.

Open courses generally offer slower putting surfaces than regular PGA Tour venues. Weather conditions are typically the reason. With wind often a factor on seaside courses, fast greens would become unplayable if they were allowed to get so quick, with balls at rest influenced.

That happened in 2015 at St. Andrews, where much of the third round was delayed due to windy conditions; balls would not stop rolling on greens.

For whatever reason, Woods said he has struggled to adjust to the slower speeds over the years.

Three weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National, Woods went to a new putter, a TaylorMade model that looks like a mallet and has grooves on the face. The idea was to jolt him out of a putting slump, but he also made the switch with an eye on The Open.

"It has a little more swing to it," Woods said Tuesday. "This putter has grooves in it, so it does roll initially a little faster and a little bit more true. And it is a little bit hotter. It's going to help me on these greens, for sure, because normally when I've come over here and virtually almost every single Open I've played in, I would put lead tape on my putters to try and get it a little bit heavier and get the ball rolling."

Already, there are numerous stories about how far the ball is rolling down fairways. Woods said Monday that he hit a 3-iron off the 18th tee that went 333 yards. Had he hit a driver, he would have risked the ball rolling into the water (known as the Barry Burn) that fronts the green.

On Sunday, Woods played the par-4 fourth hole by hitting a 7-iron off the tee to avoid well-positioned bunkers. That club, one he normally hits 180 yards, saw the ball roll out to 215 yards.

"You're going to see a lot of guys hit the ball a long way without a lot of club," Woods said.

Perhaps that strategy will work well for Woods, who famously won the 2006 Open at a burned-out and baked Royal Liverpool. For the week, Woods hit just a single driver, choosing to play irons off the tees for positioning and wearing out the field with some incredible iron play to the greens.

"Nobody could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did," said Padraig Harrington, who won The Open at Carnoustie in 2007. "I suspect he couldn't play that way now. He's definitely capable of winning this week. His game is good enough. I don't know if that's the strategy this week to lay up that far back."

It's possible Woods and others will have no choice -- unless they want to blast drivers over the trouble and take their changes from the rough.

Either way, it likely boils down to putting for Woods, who gained a measure of confidence on the greens at the Quicken Loans, where he tied for fourth.

"It's more about getting the feel," he said. "I feel very confident with the way I'm rolling the golf ball, but the greens were a little bit slower yesterday and I'm sure they'll be a little bit slower today with a bit of moisture. I'm going to spend a little time trying to get a pace for it."

Woods is making his 12th start of 2018 after returning from his fourth back surgery. He has three top-5 finishes and five in the top 12 but has finished within 5 strokes of the winner just once -- his runner-up finish to Paul Casey at the Valspar Championship.

A 14-time major winner, Woods has played two previous Opens at Carnoustie, tying for seventh in 1999 and tying for 12th in 2007. He is playing the first two rounds with Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama. They tee off at 10:21 a.m. ET Thursday.