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Hot-shooting Mickelson in Western contention

Wiebe leads; Tiger Woods is 8 back at 1-over

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LEMONT, Ill. — Phil Mickelson wasn't looking to set any course records or put a stranglehold on the leaderboard. He just wanted a nice, solid round that would put him in contention for the weekend.

If only it had been that easy for Tiger Woods.

While Mickelson continued to play well, Woods discovered that a five-day fishing break wasn't enough to cure what ails his swing.

Mickelson, who won the Greater Hartford Open last weekend, was bogey-free Thursday, shooting a 6-under 66 to finish 1 back of Mark Wiebe in the first round of the Western Open. Woods shot a 1-over 73, leaving him 8 strokes behind Wiebe.

Davis Love III, trying to rebuild his stamina after missing two months earlier this season with a bulging disc, is tied with Mickelson.

"It is a great start, but there's a long way to go," Wiebe said. "It's a tough golf course. It can reach up and grab you."

It grabbed both Woods and Mickelson, but how they rebounded showed exactly why each is in the run he's having right now.

Mickelson had birdies on three of his first six holes and has had only one bogey since No. 15 in the second round at the GHO — a 57-hole run. But that streak was in jeopardy on the par-5 9th, his last hole.

After his tee shot landed on the left fringe, Mickelson decided to try and slice a driver. The shot veered far left, though, landing beyond the cart path in a group of trees.

As he considered his options, Mickelson stood with his hands on his head while the crowd murmured their sympathies. But 2 shots later, he was 4 inches from the pin, an easy tap-in away from par.

"You are not going to go low four days, but when you do have it and you start making some putts, you need to capitalize on those rounds," Mickelson said. "I still need to have another one or two low rounds to be on top Sunday."

Woods, on the other hand, is going to have to make up some ground just to make it to the weekend. He took last week off after finishing out of the top 10 in consecutive tournaments for the first time since 1999.

But he looked Thursday as if he still needed a vacation. He overshot greens, missed putts and hit shots so maddening they would make the weekend hacker proud. He didn't make a birdie until the par-3 14th.

He pounded his clubs into the turf and tossed them all afternoon, finally snapping on No. 18 when he dunked his second shot into the water. He broke his iron in two and then, after 2-putting for a double-bogey, stalked off without talking to the media.

Only the top 70 — plus ties — make the cut, and there are 91 golfers at even-par 72 or better.

Worse, Woods didn't look like he was having any fun. He was stone-faced as he walked the course, not even brightening when fans cheered him on.

Wiebe, on the other hand, wore a wide grin most of the afternoon. And why not? He birdied three holes in a row on the back nine — Nos. 11, 12 and 13 — and picked up another on No. 17.

He almost birdied 18, but his 22-foot downhill putt hit the rim of the cup and then lipped out, ever so slowly. The crowd groaned as Wiebe bent his knees, but then he looked around with a smile.

"It's a great round anyway," he said. "I would have loved to shoot 64, but 65 is not bad."

Especially when he didn't make any bogeys, either.

"I told my wife, when I'm playing well, I know it," said Wiebe, who hasn't won a PGA Tour event since 1986. "I just feel like I'm playing really good golf right now."

Divots: Broadcaster Mike Tirico was taken to the hospital Thursday as a precaution. ESPN spokeswoman Diane Lamb said Tirico was undergoing tests, but he still expects to work this weekend.