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2008 Champion Kim Shoots 62 For Course Mark

Woods Puts Heat On By Following With 6-under-par 64

July 03, 2009|By Barry Svrluga | Barry Svrluga,The Washington Post

BETHESDA - -There were, it would seem, two appropriate and intriguing names that could sit atop the AT&T National leader board at the end of yesterday's first round. With no disrespect intended, that short list did not include D.A. Points or Bryce Molder or Daniel Chopra - fine players all, but something of a who's who of "Who?"

So by noon, when one of those names popped up, Bethesda was buzzing because Anthony Kim, who won this tournament a year ago, shot an 8-under-par 62 to set the course record at Congressional Country Club's immaculate Blue Course. And an hour later, Tiger Woods - the host of this event, the center of the golfing universe - teed off and began his tournament thusly: birdie on No. 1, birdie on No. 2. Instantly, he was in contention. And instantly, there was a commotion.

"I did play very well," Kim said after his morning round, a bit of an understatement considering the six-birdie 29 he shot on the Blue Course's front nine, which he played second. "But that man can go out there and shoot 60, so I'm not really worried about what he's doing."

That, of course, is a perfect attitude for the Thursday of a golf tournament, and Woods, of course, did not shoot 60. But he did respond with a 64. Yes, there were two other 64s: one from Molder, a 30-year-old who has four top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour in his career; and the other from Points, who 13 years ago lost a tough quarterfinal match at the U.S. Amateur to Woods and is back on the main circuit after a two-year relegation to the minor league Nationwide Tour.

As fine as those rounds were - and throw in Steve Elkington's surprising 65 and very solid 66s from Jim Furyk, Stuart Appleby and Chopra among other strong starts - the names that mattered were the names of Kim, the 24-year-old who would someday like to challenge Woods in major championships, and Woods, who matters every single time he plays. Kim's round came without a bogey, and going back to last year, he has played 40 consecutive bogey-free holes at Congressional.

Woods' round featured only one bogey, on the difficult par-4 11th, but he responded with a birdie on the 12th, then made two more coming in.

"You can be aggressive," Woods said. "And if you pull it off, this is the day to pull it off."

That is simply because overnight rains made the Blue Course's greens exceptionally soft and, therefore, exceptionally vulnerable.

"It's not the way I want it, no, just because it rained," Woods said. "I'd like to get the greens faster, but you can't do it when you get a half-inch of rain overnight. If we get no more rain and this place starts drying out a little bit, we can get these things up to speed."

But with shots holding, the course record of 63, set by Tom Pernice Jr. and Peter Lonard in last year's AT&T National, was quite reachable. That Kim would be the man to reach it, though, was an iffy proposition when the day began.

Loaded with talent - he made 11 birdies in one round of the Masters in April, despite blustery conditions - the Californian has battled a series of injuries this year, most recently a thumb problem that he said made it difficult for him to properly grip the club. Now, he said, "It doesn't hurt anymore."

Pain-free, he is starting to get his confidence back after a season that features only one top-10 finish. He has not won since he did so here a year ago. But at Congressional, it makes sense that he might.

"I love coming back to a course I have good feelings about, and obviously playing well last year helped," Kim said. "This course does fit my eye, and I'm starting to see the break on these greens pretty well."

Woods pointed out that it was too early to whittle the field to two, the only players destined to battle it out Sunday. The galleries, as enthralled as they were with Kim and Woods, could end up learning more about, say, Molder or Points.

They know, surely, about Woods, and by the time he arrived at the 18th, fans in some of the sponsors' tents above the green were chanting "Ti-ger! Ti-ger!" They know, too, about Kim, who so badly wants to get back in contention on a Sunday. As sexy as those names are, it is just a start.

"We both played well," Woods said. "But still, we have a long way to go."

Leader board

Anthony Kim

29-33 - 62

D.A. Points

31-33 - 64

Bryce Molder

30-34 - 64

Tiger Woods

31-33 - 64

Steve Elkington

33-32 - 65

Selected followers

Jim Furyk

33-33 - 66

Lucas Glover

33-36 - 69

Vijay Singh

35-35 - 70

Fred Funk

37-34 - 71

AT&T NATIONAL

When: Through Sunday

Congressional CC, Bethesda

Today's TV: Golf Channel, 3 p.m.

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