The former world No 1 hit two short irons fat in the opening two holes – the first landing in the Swilcan Burn – and managed just one birdie in an opening 76, the same score as 65-year-old Tom Watson in his last Open appearance.
Woods arrived at the scene of his Open triumphs in 2000 and 2005 in confident mood after a bogey-free closing 67 in the Greenbrier Classic, but was more like the player who carded three rounds in the 80s in his six previous tournaments.
“I fought hard,” said Woods, whose only higher score on the Old Course is a 78 in 1995 as a 19-year-old amateur. “I made some mistakes, two bogeys with wedge in my hands and bogeyed a par five, so not ideal.
“I had a good number (to the first) but unfortunately hit it fat. Hit a nine iron fat on two, drove the ball in two divots and had to play extremely conservatively on those two shots. Just one of those mixed bags.
“I’ve got to just fight, fight through it. I know that [yesterday was] a very benign day. Guys have been shooting good numbers. Unfortunately I did not do that.
“Hopefully the conditions will be tough [today] and I can put together a good round and we’ll move up the board 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 then obviously put together some really solid rounds.”
Asked if it was tough to remain motivated after such a start, Woods added: “No, motivation is never a problem with me. Discouraging, yeah. I was angered a little bit.
“But I hit it really good coming home and I made some good clutch putts. I just needed to put those balls in position for birdies instead of for pars.”
Playing partner Jason Day admitted it was tough to watch his boyhood idol playing so poorly, adding: “He’s why I chased the dream of becoming a professional.
“The good thing about it is I saw him struggle a little bit before and he came back and got to No 1, so I know that he can get back out of this, it’s just depending on how much he wants it.”
Despite such struggles Woods was seen laughing and joking with Day, who added: “Before he had that kind of killer instinct.
“I think [yesterday] he was just struggling a little bit, needed to put his mind somewhere else, and that’s kind of how he dealt with it.
“Before I think the way he used to kind of get back at things, he used to get p***** off at himself and that put him back to where he needed to be mentally on the golf course.”