Woods Off To Fast Start

Golf Pga Championship

2008 Champion Harrington Is 1 Back

Quiros Trails By 2

August 14, 2009|By Teddy Greenstein | Teddy Greenstein,Tribune reporter

CHASKA, Minn. - - Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington had a good laugh on the 600-yard 11th hole when they noticed a ball from the group behind them had reached the front edge of the green.

"I thought someone had chipped his third shot up there," Harrington recalled.

Alvaro Quiros, the PGA European Tour's longest hitter, had hit his second shot within spitting distance of Woods' group.

"That's just stupid long, isn't it?" Woods said. "To hit it that far into the wind is just phenomenal. I used to be able to move the ball. ... Now I just plod my way around."

He was merely good enough Thursday to shoot a blemish-free 5-under-par 67, good for the PGA Championship lead.

Woods is one shot ahead of Harrington, the defending PGA champ, two ahead of Quiros and has a seven-shot advantage over Phil Mickelson, who apparently has not shaken the rust from a six-week layoff.

"It's always nice to get off quick," Woods said. "But you certainly cannot win the golf tournament on the first day. You can play yourself out of it."

Since 2000, Woods has led four majors after one round and won all of them. The most recent was the 2005 British Open.

Woods missed the cut at last month's British Open, and he joked that the experience might have helped him carve up Hazeltine National.

"I had that nice little rest there after the British Open, those two days," he said. "I have plenty of energy."

Actually Woods' energy burst might have come from winning his last two events, the Buick Open and Bridgestone Invitational. He out-dueled Harrington down the stretch Sunday at Firestone, and the two were the best players on the golf course again Thursday.

"If you're playing with Tiger Woods, you're doing well," Harrington said. "And he's an easy guy to play golf with. He's a perfect gentleman who says, 'Good shot' when it needs to be said. Once you get used to the extra cameras and things like that, it's where you want to be."

Woods, vying for his first major championship of 2009, made a 20-foot birdie putt on his third hole of the day, No. 12. He picked up another shot at the 651-yard 15th and kept cruising from there.

His misses didn't hurt him. He hit a self-described "terrible" 4-iron approach on No. 1 but got up and down with a flop shot and a 5-foot putt to save par.

He reached the 564-yard seventh with a 6-iron and left his eagle try 4 feet short. But he made the birdie putt to take the outright lead at 5-under.

Woods wanted more from his round.

"It could have been really low," he said. "I hit a lot of good putts that were skirting the edge and lipping out."

Still, Woods' 67 bodes well in his quest to join Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen as the only five-time winners of the PGA. He has broken 70 in the first round of 11 majors and won seven of them.

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