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Tiger toughs out 71

| Friday, July 17, 2009

TURNBERRY, Scotland -- For a course that was easy as it can be, Tiger Woods sure made it hard on himself.

Woods produced a pedestrian round Thursday in surprisingly calm conditions at Turnberry, making only three birdies and far more mistakes. He wound up with a 1-over-par 71 -- the first time since 2003 that he failed to break par in the opening round of the British Open.

"Realistically, I probably should have shot about 1- or 2-under par today," Woods said. "But I made a few mistakes."

It was reminiscent of the opening round at Bethpage Black in the U.S. Open, where Woods battled to get back to even par until dropping four shots on the last four holes and never quite recovered.

There were a few exceptions.

The first round at Bethpage took two days to complete because of rain. This took just under five hours in a mixture of sun and clouds -- a fine summer day along the Ayrshire coast.

And unlike the U.S. Open, Woods was never too far from the leaders until it got away from him at the end.

He missed the 13th green; the ball stopped a yard in front of gorse bush, leaving Woods just enough room to pitch up the slope to 4 feet to save par and stay 1-under.

His 2-iron on the 14th sailed right into rough so deep that he did well to hammer a sand wedge out to the fairway, advancing it some 80 yards. From there, his high wedge checked a few feet from the hole for another timely save.

With everyone around him making birdies, Woods was celebrating par.

But not for long.

He came up short on the par-5 15th, leaving himself an awkward angle over a slope. His chip was too strong, and he missed a 12-foot par putt.

From the fairway on the 16th, he was aiming 10 feet left of the flag and hit it 10 feet to the right. It bounded down the shaved mound and into the burn, and he did well to make only a bogey.

Then came the par-5 17th, another tee shot to the right. Even with a good break -- his ball sat up nicely on trampled grass -- he popped up a 3-wood and cursed himself twice for the mistake. Again, the world's No. 1 player had to rely on all his muscle to get out of the rough onto the green, some 70 feet away, to make par.

By the end of the day, he was the only player in his group who failed to break par.

Lee Westwood opened with three consecutive birdies, reached 4-under and shot 68. Ryo Ishikawa, the 17-year-old from Japan, hit driver on just about every hole and finished strong for a 68.

Everywhere he looked, there was a leaderboard showing several morning scores under par, including Tom Watson at 65.

He was long gone when Miguel Angel Jimenez took the lead at 64. The seven-shot deficit is the largest Woods has faced after the first round of the British Open.

"This golf course, certainly you could shoot a good round today," Woods said. "You saw a lot of guys at basically 3-, 4-, 5-under par. And that's what you could do out there today."

Just not him.

The last time he failed to break par in the first round of the British Open was a 73 at Royal St. George's in 2003, a tough and breezy English links where Woods eventually tied for fourth.

Not many saw this coming, except perhaps for Woods.

"The misses I had were the same shots I was hitting on the range," he said. "So, I need to go work on that and get it squared away."

Woods rarely hit driver and didn't find the fairway the three times he did. He stuck to his plan of laying back to avoid the bunkers. That didn't sound as though it would change.

"We're playing to certain spots, how we think the golf course should be attacked and played," he said.

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