Whether the world No 1 is attacking with his driver or by stealth, he remains the potent force at St Andrews, writes Frank Malley

When Tiger Woods appeared on national television swinging a golf club at the age of four, it was obvious he did not exactly occupy the same planet as the rest of us.

Yesterday he demonstrated, through intriguing insight and a six-under-par 66 on the golf course, exactly how complex at times and wonderful at others is his world.

It is one in which his mother, Kutilda, neglected to tell him she was staying in a hotel across the road when one of the London bombs went off. He found out yesterday from his coach, Hank Haney.

It is a world in which his dad, Earl, kept from him the fact that he was battling cancer. And one in which he did not think to call his parents when he was undergoing knee surgery.

"It's one of our deals of being a Woods, I guess. Kind of deal with things and move on," explained Woods.

It might not be everybody's idea of normal, but then Woods also plays a golf game with which, to borrow the famous phrase Bobby Jones once used about Jack Nicklaus, "the rest of us are not familiar".

That exquisite game was on show yesterday, from the moment he stepped on to the Old Course where he decimated the field five years ago to lift the Old Claret Jug.

A bird swooped across his path just as he addressed the ball for his opening tee shot. Immediately he stepped back, flashed a toothpaste commercial grin and composed himself before launching the ball on its way on a round which was liberally mixed with drama and serenity.

One of the dramas arrived on the 11th tee when a teenaged diabetic fainted with a clatter in the stand close to the tee box as Woods again addressed his ball.

Two police officers and members of Woods' security team went into the crowd to help out while Woods watched and waited.

He then proceeded to fire a six-iron at the hugely difficult 174-yard par-three hole to ten feet and sank the downhill putt for one of his eight birdies.

In a nutshell, that was the story of Woods's day.

Every hole on a course which had been specially lengthened to combat Woodsstyle long- hitters was approached as an opportunity and often with a wedge.

Every obstacle was overcome with composure and masterful control, both of golf club and mind.

One arrived on the seventh when his tee shot found the fairway bunker.

Not any old bunker. This one was 35 yards across and so deep that Woods performed a Sergeant jump in a bid to locate the pin.

It was also the first bunker he had located at St Andrews for some while, considering he did not find a single one over 72 holes back in 2000.

He only splashed out to four feet and sank the putt for a birdie.

Momentum feeds on such feats. Four-under-par at the turn. A murmur ran through the crowd. They sensed something special.

Three more birdies arrived in quick succession, the pick of which was at the 11th, but the five-foot putt at the 12th was also key, producing a 'nice putt' shout from Tiger's mum at greenside and taking his score to seven-under.

At that point, Woods was in course-record 62 territory, and if he had not found the fairway bunker at the 13th, requiring a 40-yard takeyour-medicine splash-out for bogey, who knows where he might have ended?

As it was, the temperature cooled ever so slightly on Tiger's head of steam and, as if to put golf in its proper perspective, his next hole was interrupted by the announcing klaxon and the two minutes' silence for the London bomb victims.

This was observed in such impeccable fashion by the huge gallery that all that could be heard was the plaintiff cry of the odd seagull and the whirr of photographers' camera shutters, somewhat ironically, capturing the moment.

The pictures would have shown Woods taking off his cap and with head bowed, reflecting on a moment he explained later had been laced with personal poignancy.

"I was very thankful that my mom is still here," he said. "It could have been pretty tragic for me. I can only imagine what everyone else who lost a loved one or who had loved ones hurt might have been going through."

The moment, however, did not compromise his concentration and, while he found his third bunker of the round to bogey the 16th, he bought back the shot with a drive to the edge of the green at the last followed by a ruthlessly efficient two putts.

"It's a great start," he admitted. "I made some putts today. That never hurts."

What about winning his tenth major here this Sunday?

"You don't enter it to finish in the top ten or second. You enter to win, or else why enter?" he said.

That is the world of Woods. Weird but quite wonderful.