/ 14 August 2009

Tiger wets his whistle with opening round 67

Tiger Woods only has to recall what he was doing during last year’s PGA Championship to realize how far he has bounced back from reconstructive knee surgery.

This time last year, Woods was waist deep in his swimming pool walking across the shallow end as part of his rehabilitation following surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

”I couldn’t do much of anything,” said Woods, who fired a brilliant five-under par 67 to lead defending champion Padraig Harrington by one stroke after Thursday’s opening round of the 91st PGA Championship.

”I was just starting to try and walk without the brace. I wasn’t very good at it but I was just trying to get a little bit of flex at the time, and walking in the pool and those different things.”

Woods watched from his sofa as his Thursday playing partner, Padraig Harrington, rolled in a 15-foot par putt on the 18th hole at Oakland Hills to win his second consecutive major of 2008.

”I watched the tournament. I caught the last four or five holes coming in on Sunday,” Woods said. ”Charlie Wi was up there. I played against him in junior so I wanted to see what he was doing.”

Woods showed he isn’t ready to finish his season empty handed in the majors, blitzing the Hazeltine National Golf Club with a five birdies in a bogey-free round while playing with Harrington and 2002 PGA winner Rich Beem.

Woods is going for his fifth PGA title, which would match the record shared by Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen.

”I was ready for today,” he said. ”There are times I have put it together and I’ve had some pretty good margins of victory. My game has gotten better and become more consistent.

”When I am playing well I usually don’t make many mistakes.”

That’s how it looked on Thursday at Hazletine, which at 7 674 yards is the longest in majors history.

”It is long on the scoreboard but we didn’t play it that long,” Woods said. ”The beauty of having a golf course this long is having the ability to move the tees around based on the wind.

”The fairways are plenty wide here. There is plenty of room.”

Woods teed off under sunny conditions and warm temperatures but the weather got worse for those with afternoon tee times as the rain and wind moved in.

Woods said he can’t let the weather bother him in Friday’s second round.

”It is one of those things where I just keep plodding along,” Woods said. ”Tomorrow the weather’s not supposed to be very good. I’ve got to go out and just be consistent.”

Woods showed Thursday he is one of the best on the Tour at blocking out the bad stuff and banking the good memories.

Asked to describe his birdie on No. 3 hole, Woods was momentarily stumped, couldn’t recall how he got to the green. ”What did I do on three? I can’t remember.”

His memory improved once he was reminded that he hit a tree. ”Oh yeah, I made about a 30-footer [putt] there.” — AFP