Tiger Woods without a blemish in leading PGA

Tiger Woods didn't need any dramatics or jaw-dropping shots as he calmly assumed a one-shot lead at the US PGA Championship after Thursday's opening round.

updated: August 14, 2009 10:37 IST
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Chaska, Minnesota:

Tiger Woods didn't need any dramatics or jaw-dropping shots as he calmly assumed a one-shot lead at the US PGA Championship after Thursday's opening round.

Seven years ago, a younger Woods thrilled everyone at Hazeltine National with a shot from a fairway bunker he called one of his best ever.

No need this year, as he merely plodded - his word - his way around the course to take a one-stroke lead over defending champion Padraig Harrington.

Woods shot a 5-under 67, missing just two fairways and three greens. His round was blemish-free, only the third time he's opened a major without a bogey. The other two were at the US and British Opens in 2000, where he just happened to win by a combined 23 shots.

"You don't have to be eight ahead after the first round," Woods said. "The whole idea is not to make that many mistakes. All the majors that I've won, I made very few mistakes for the week."

Woods' record when he has at least a share of the lead through 18 holes is only 13-11 on the PGA Tour, including 4-2 in the majors. And a few of the guys right behind him have been here before.

Ireland's Harrington, who has two British Open claret jugs along with last year's Wanamaker Trophy, stayed with Woods through the morning until a bunker shot on the par-5 seventh was too strong and he had to settle for par.

Fiji's Vijay Singh and American David Toms, also past PGA champions, both shot 69 while playing in the afternoon, and should have the best conditions of the day Friday, when the wind was expected to howl.

Phil Mickelson struggled off the tee and with his short putts in his round of 74.

Still, even if there were no concession speeches from the rest of the field, they know it will be an uphill battle.

"He's human," said Australian Robert Allenby, who is tied with Singh, Toms and three others at 3 under. "He's the best in the world, so we expect him to win, because he's the best. He should. But you know what? It's three more days to go. And a lot can happen."

Woods isn't counting his 15th major win - and first this year - quite yet, either. And he isn't the same guy who was tossing clubs, swearing and searching the course for a lost ball at last month's British Open, where he missed the cut in a major for only the second time in his professional career.

He's won the past two weekends, including a tantalizing duel with Harrington at Firestone, and his game appears to get better each time he steps on the course.

Not even the supersized Hazeltine - it played at 7,660 yards despite some tees being moved up because of the wind - could get in his way. He picked up three birdies on the par 5s, including a 3-wood to a back bunker on the 651-yard 15th, with a breeze at his back. He took the outright lead on the par-5 seventh with a 349-yard tee shot, followed by a 6-iron to 30 feet.

He had a chance to expand his lead with birdie putts of 12 and 15 feet on the last two holes, but they lipped out.

"Years ago, he had probably more flair in his game," Harrington said. "His game is very solid now. Not that he hit all the shots, but I think he's put a little bit of conservatism on his game. It's nice, and he's very much in control of it."

So much so that he chuckled when Alvaro Quiros had what might be the shotd of the tournament.

The Spaniard hit driver off the tee on the 606-yard 11th hole - into the wind - and it ran onto the green while Woods, Harrington and Rich Beem were still putting. Woods looked back at Quiros and smiled, giving him a thumbs-up.

"That's just stupid long," Woods said, grinning. "To hit it that far into the wind is phenomenal. It's just absolutely phenomenal."

Asked if he was jealous, Woods laughed.

"I used to be able to move the ball. Not anymore," he said. "I just plod my way around, shoot 67."