By Simon Evans
JOHNS CREEK, Georgia (Reuters) - Tiger Woods offered a tantalizing glimpse of his old self at the PGA Championship on Thursday before the erratic play that has dogged him through the past, winless, two years returned to wreck his opening round.
"I'm not down, I'm angry right now," said a dejected Woods, a four-times PGA Championship winner who found himself down at the foot of the leaderboard alongside club professionals Mike Northern and Faber Jamerson.
After five holes, on the more challenging back nine, Woods was three under par and tied for the lead before his game unravelled to leave him with his worst first round score in a major -- a seven-over-par 77.
Birdies in glorious sunshine, warm applause from the gallery and Woods in contention for a major - for an hour it felt to those watching that the 35-year-old, whose career has been derailed by personal troubles and injuries, really was back.
Now the challenge for Woods becomes simply to play well enough on Friday to survive the cut and avoid another low point in a deeply disappointing season.
Woods, who had looked tidy and in control in ideal conditions, said that his old swing problems returned as he consciously loosened up following three birdies in the first five holes.
"Every shot I hit up to that point were all mechanical thoughts, I put the club in a certain position, and I was doing that and I said, 'You know what, I'm feeling good. Let's just let it go.' And it cost me the whole round," he said.
Before his three-month absence to resolve leg injuries, Woods, who has not won a tournament since 2009, had been working on a new swing with coach Sean Foley.
Dealing with the mechanical process andre-adjusting so many parts of a game that once seemed to come so naturally to him clearly means that the 14-times major winner can no longer just let the shots flow.
Saying he had many elements of his technique to work on before returning for his second round, Woods was clearly frustrated that he could not lift his game for a major.
"I can't say just one (thing to work on), because it's a lot of different things," he said. "What causes the ball to shape more? It's a bunch of things. So it's just unfortunately I'm not at a point that I can let it go.
"I've been in this process before: I've been through it with (coach) Butch Harmon; I've been through it with Hank (Haney); and now I've been through it with Sean.
"I just thought, this is a major, and you peak for these events. And once you get to a major championship, you just let it fly, let it go. And I did and it cost me."
The downfall began with a double-bogey on the tricky, long par-three 15th where Woods struck his tee shot into the water hazard to the right of the green.
Another double came on the 18th and then the front nine, Woods' back nine, was a long and painful series of mistakes with four bogeys, a double-bogey on the sixth and just one birdie on the fifth to ease the pain.
It was a sorry end to his round but it was even sadder to hear Woods describe how he simply cannot do what he once produced to order.
"I'm in a major championship, it's time to score, time to play and time to let it go," he said. "And it cost me the round."
(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)