Tiger Woods's victory in the 2000 Open Championship at St Andrews was, primarily, a triumph of mind over golf course.

It was hailed as a masterpiece of strategical certainty and the legend is embellished by the fact that Woods never once went into a bunker.

He won the tournament at 19 below par and he was eight shots clear of Ernie Els and Thomas Bjorn at the end.

One of the great Open victories, surely?

Actually, says Woods five years on, he had more than a little luck. "There's absolutely no doubt about that," he owned up yesterday. "I should have been in three or even five bunkers. From the tee shots alone.

"But my ball hopped over the bunker, caught the side or kicked away. Little things like that.

"It happens and fortunately it happened for me that week. I was lucky quite a few times."

The bunkering at St Andrews he describes as " funny." He wonders what several of the bunkers are for.

"Then all of a sudden the wind switches and you know what they're for and that's the beauty of playing here; you're always discovering new bunkers just because the wind changes.

"I've played here in 1995, 1998 and then 2000 and I've experienced all the different types of wind, so I've experienced some bunkers that I didn't think would ever come into play."

And, as he says, he got lucky. Leaving aside the imponderables, Woods is the favourite to win this week. It was put to him that Vijay Singh, with whom he has disputed the world No 1 spot, was his closest rival.

Woods wouldn't be drawn on that one but he invited everyone to examine Singh's record and to draw their own conclusions.

"Even in the weeks that he doesn't win, he's in contention. He's very consistent."

Personal rivalry, though, did not come into Woods's thoughts.

"When we play in the same tournaments, you try to get yourself in position to win. And if you're there and he's there, it's going to be a tougher battle.

"But you need to get there first and it's still not something that you say: OK, if I beat him, I win the tournament. There's a bunch of other guys who are playing really well out there."

While he claims to adore the place, you sense that Woods has reservations about St Andrews. He is constantly stressing the significance of the varying wind speeds and if there is no wind at all - there's been scarcely a puff this week - "guys," he believes, "will shoot some numbers.

"The greens are at a speed where you can be aggressive. They're firm, though, and it will be interesting to see how tough they'll make the pins. Over the knobs or on the corners.

"That will be the only defence if the wind doesn't blow."

For himself, he was indifferent to the conditions.

"It doesn't matter either way. Everybody has to play the same course but the luck factor does come into it when you consider the tee times. Hopefully, I'm on the good side of the draw."

Much is made of the differing approach to their Open championships between the R&A and the USGA. The Americans present their courses on the wrong side of murderous while Open courses are, more or less, left to nature.

Who gets it right? "The R&A set-up is generally more fair," said Woods. He did have in mind that notorious year (1999) at Carnoustie but, apart from that instance, the British way was the more reasonable.

"They do the right thing here, they let Mother Nature dictate what the winning score is going to be."

And, having said that, he suspected that the R&A set up their courses on the easy side in case the wind gets up.

As Jack Nicklaus prepares to leave the stage, the question somehow becomes more urgent. Can Woods surpass the older man's record of 18 major championships?

Woods cannot find a direct answer.

"If I'm lucky enough to tie, come near or to pass Jack, it's going to take an entire career. It is not something that is going to happen in a short ten or eleven-year period.

"It took Jack 24 years to win all his majors so it's going to take me a while but at least I'm heading in the right direction."