A Cool Start And Then Some Heat
After a double bogey to start, Tiger's three biridies over the next eight holes repaired the damage.
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- What looked like a possible meltdown turned out to be only a hiccup for Tiger Woods.
The world's best player made an ugly double bogey on the opening hole of the U.S. Open on Thursday, but came back with three birdies over the next eight holes to turn at 1 under par and within shouting distance of the leader, Robert Karlsson.
Karlsson was 4 under, a shot ahead of Justin Hicks, Stuart Appleby and Patrick Sheehan, who teed off in the first threesome of the day under cloudy skies and cool temperatures at Torrey Pines.
An hour later, with the sun starting to peek out, Woods took to the course, part of a glamour threesome with second-ranked Phil Mickelson and third-ranked Adam Scott.
Scott made the turn at even par and Mickelson staggered to 3-over, missing three putts badly on the front and having some apparent trouble reading the greens at a course that used to feel like home. A Southern California native, Mickelson played Torrey Pines a lot growing up, though the course has become something completely different under U.S. Open conditions.
Woods, who has six PGA Tour victories here, looked completely uncomfortable on the first hole, opening with a drive that hooked badly into the caked-down kikuya rough -- his first competitive shot since knee surgery after the Masters.
He hacked out with a wedge, then flew his approach over the green into some more tangly grass. Unable to control that shot, either, he knocked the next shot about 8 feet past the hole and two-putted to start the day 2 over par.
But that was worst of it, at least for the front nine.
He hit a shot out of a fairway bunker on No. 4 to tap-in range for a birdie to get to 1-over. Then he birdied the par-3 eighth and the par-5 ninth, where he hit his second shot into rough behind the green but chipped close and made the putt.
At that point, he looked like the old Tiger, stalking to the hole, snatching the ball out, then tossing it underhand into the gallery as he made his way to the 10th tee.
His gait looked fine -- no signs of a limp, even though he said he hadn't walked 18 holes under any conditions since the surgery to clean out cartilage on his left knee.
He is trying to avoid a repeat of what happened the last time he took this long a break. Returning from a layoff after the death of his father in 2006, Woods missed the cut at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot -- the first and only time he failed to make it to the weekend in a major.
Woods made the turn tied with Steve Stricker, who made a winding 20-footer on No. 16 (he started on the back nine) to get to 4-under for a time, before making double and a bogey to fall back.
Mickelson was off to a rotten start, though his struggles looked to have more to do with his balky putter than his decision to play the first round on the 7,643-yard course, longest in major championship history, without a driver in the bag. It was a notable difference for a player who once carried two of them for the Masters.
Scott greeted everyone on the first tee box with a left-handed handshake; he recently broke his right pinkie finger.
The USGA manipulated the pairings to put the world's top three on the course together for the first two days. More than 100 media and photographers, as crowded as anything Woods has ever seen, lined the inside of the ropes to walk with the group down the first fairway. There were thousands of fans in the stands and lining the route to the green.
That was quite a contrast to the scene Sheehan, D.A. Points and David Hearn saw about an hour earlier. They hit the first three shots of the tournament to near silence -- but all their shots went straight down the fairway, a far cry from where Woods ended up.
At 2-under, one shot ahead of Woods, was Dean Wilson. Joining Woods and Stricker in a big group at 1-under were Woody Austin, Rocco Mediate and Lee Westwood.