What finally caught his attention was not the rough that resembled wheat fields, not the haunting echo of the wind off the Firth of Tay, not even the scantily dressed woman who ran onto the 18th green to give him a kiss.
No. What made him look up was a roar from the gallery. Somebody had made something called a birdie.
"I kind of rolled my head out of surprise, because I really hadn't heard anything today," Woods said.
The first round was not one for much cheering, especially for those who had to play.
At times, it was painful even to watch.
"You could seriously injure yourself," Woods said.
Indeed, Carnoustie Golf Links put a big hurt on the first round of the British Open, and the only player to match par was a former greenskeeper from Australia whom hardly anyone knows.
While defending champion Mark O'Meara and more than one-third of the field couldn't even break 80, Rodney Pampling made 11 straight pars and an eagle for a 71 and a one-stroke lead after the cruelest round in recent major championship history.
Listen to David Duval, whose par on the 18th hole kept him from being one of 57 players to sign for an 80 or worse. Two players were in the 90s.
"If the average player had to play out there, he'd probably quit the game _ a lot of pros, too," Duval said.
Listen to Woods, whose patience, control and a few sensational, Tiger-like par saves gave him a 3-over 74. He had played only seven holes when he turned to caddie Steve Williams and said, "Are we even close to being done?"
"The best players in the world are playing the most difficult course in the world in the most difficult conditions," said Hugh Campbell, chairman of the Open championship committee. "At the moment, the most difficult course in the world is winning."
By a landslide.
Teeing off in the second group, two hours before the winds reached their full strength, Pampling took only 10 putts on the front nine, made an eagle putt from 25 feet on No. 14 and then got out of harm's way.
"I didn't know it would be leading," he said.
It was the first time no one broke par in a major championship since the British Open in 1986 at Turnberry.
Two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer and Scott Dunlap, who played the Nike Tour a year ago, were at 72.
"It takes a lot out of you," Langer said. "I'm just glad to get the first round over."
Former British Open champion Justin Leonard was in the group at 73, while Woods missed two mid-range par putts down the stretch to slip back at 74 along with Ernie Els, Colin Montgomerie and Davis Love III.
Pampling, who won his first Australian PGA Tour event in February, didn't even start hitting practice balls until he had completed a three-year apprenticeship as a greenskeeper at Caboolture Golf Club in Queensland.
Perhaps the better training came Wednesday, when he played a practice round with Woods and O'Meara.
"He struck the ball well," Woods said. "He controlled his trajectory, made a few bombs ... and obviously continued that today. To shoot the round he did was quite remarkable."
Given the conditions, it may have been even better than that. The scoring average was 78.312, more than seven strokes over par.
When Tom Watson won the first of his five British Opens at Carnoustie in 1975, 37 players failed to break 80 _ for the week. Watson had an 82 Thursday, not surprising given his recent play. But this is not the Carnoustie he remembers from 24 years ago.
"It's an unfair golf course," he said. "It's too narrow for the penal rough. Bobby Jones once said it's not meant to be a fair game, and we're not on a fair course. Add the wind, and it's not unexpected to see scores this high."
Garcia sure didn't expect to open with an 89 _ 27 strokes higher than his start in last week's European event in Loch Lomond. He hacked through the hay for a triple bogey on the first hole and never recovered.
When it was over, the 19-year-old known as "El Nino" walked off the course in the arms of his mother.
"Today is forgotten," he said in a statement released two hours after his round.
Sorry, Sergio. There's still another round left. And three more for those who survive the cut.
Woods managed just fine. A winner in three of his last four tournaments, he made a 20-foot putt to save par from a pot bunker on No. 2, then hacked out of weeds on No. 12 to 5 feet for another crucial par save.
"It was a pretty good one," Woods said, flashing a smile that showed he's right where he wants to be. Woods has never won a professional event when he led after the first round.
The Open has not been played at Carnoustie since Watson won in '75. Don't blame some players if they campaign to have it dropped from the rotation, or at least the way it has been set up.
"It could actually be a place where people wish they'd missed the cut," U.S. Open champion Payne Stewart said after his round of 79. If the wind blows as hard again Friday, the cut might be in the vicinity of 14-over.