NEWPORT, R.I. -- Tiger Woods was up to the challenge.
The center of attraction as he labors in defense of his U.S. Amateur championship, he drew a strong opening-round foe in Patrick Lee, 23, a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and the current Western Amateur champion.
But Woods won the first hole and never relinquished the lead in securing a 3-and-2 triumph yesterday at Newport Country Club. A 25-foot birdie putt at the 15th hole gave him a 3-up advantage.
"[The pairing] didn't matter," Woods said. "If you are going to go far, you have to play the good ones anyway.
"This was a tough match, but it was a building block. I hit the ball well and showed a lot of patience. I putted better, too, because I was able to see the line."
Lee said he looked forward to the match after learning of his pairing. "The pressure was on him, not me. And I played before 13,000 in the final of the Western, so the crowd around us didn't bother me," he said.
Putting turned out to be the difference, although Lee said he didn't putt badly -- the ball just didn't fall. "I missed a two-footer at No. 4, hit the hole on 5 and 6, and left it on the lip at 7," he said.
Trip Kuehne, last year's losing finalist and older brother of current U.S. Women's Amateur champion Kelli, was one of three members of the NCAA championship Oklahoma State team to advance.
Kuehne whipped Chad Wright, 4 and 3; Kris Cox posted the day's most lopsided score in overwhelming Ryuji Imada, an outstanding junior, 7 and 5; and Chris Tidland, second low qualifier, rallied to get past Lee Eagleton, from Australia, 1 up.
Medalist Jerry Courville, down most the way, had a chance to force overtime at the last hole, but wound up a 2-up loser to William Hadden, a year older at 37 and a Connecticut stockbroker who was the losing finalist in the 1989 U.S. Mid-Amateur championship.
Although this was another in a series of mild, sunny days, conditions were more difficult than the earlier rounds because of the wind. It was blowing off the ocean and meant a difference of anywhere from two to four clubs.
The course, the site of the inaugural U.S Amateur in 1895, is 6,665 yards of open vistas that already has exacted a heavy toll on players. Two rounds today and two tomorrow will reduce the number to two for a scheduled 36-hole final Sunday.
NOTES: Caves Valley GC member Buddy Marucci was a 2-up winner after halving the first eight holes on the back nine. . . . Among the five players older than 30 still in contention: Marucci, 43; one-time Chesapeake Cup entrant Danny Yates, 45; and reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Tim Jackson, 36. . . . Chris Riley, a UNLV student, rolled home winning birdie putts of 15 feet at the 18th and 12 feet at the first extra hole to get past Bryant MacKellar.