Facebook Twitter

Woods erases memories with flawless play

SHARE Woods erases memories with flawless play

MONTREAL — Tiger Woods was at Royal Montreal Golf Club, and he was in trouble.

Unlike four years ago, when he missed his only cut on the PGA Tour at the Canadian Open, this didn't last long.

Standing beneath a cluster of trees on the 11th fairway, he studied his options — pitch back to the fairway, play a punch fade around the timber or squeeze a 3-iron through a gap in the trees only 4 feet wide.

He chose the latter and pulled it off, and wound up saving par.

Whatever sour memories he took from Royal Montreal in 1997 were replaced Thursday by a nearly flawless round of 5-under 65. It not only tied the course record, but also left Woods tied for the lead with Jim McGovern, Matt Gogel and rookie Michael Muehr.

"It wasn't on my mind what happened in '97 because I knew if I started thinking that way, then I don't think I could put the attention I needed on each and every shot," Woods said. "And the way this golf course is playing, you need to be focused on what you're doing."

John Daly, fresh off his victory in the BMW International Open in Germany to end a six-year drought, had a bogey-free 66 and was joined by Mark O'Meara and Joey Sindelar, with Match Play champion Steve Stricker among those at 67.

Seeing Woods' name at the top of the leaderboard is no longer surprising.

He won golf's third-oldest national championship last year by making birdie on the 72nd hole with a 6-iron from 218 yards out of a fairway bunker and over the water at Glen Abbey Golf Club outside Toronto.

That was his third straight victory, and ninth of a remarkable season.

This year, despite suggestions that he's been in a slump twice, he has won five times, including his last start two weeks ago at Firestone.

The mystery were the guys who joined him in the lead.

McGovern is playing on conditional status because he finished 146th on the money list last year, and now only gets to play tournaments that have room for him. He has missed his last three cuts, but feels competitive again.

Gogel is the guy who led Woods by seven strokes in the final round at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am last year, only to finish second. His wife recently had their first child, and he hasn't played in a month.

Birdies on five consecutive holes showed that the time off hasn't hurt him.

Then there's Muehr, who spent the weekend at Riviera contending for the Nissan Open. He was tied for the lead with eight holes to go until he dropped a few shots in a cold, driving rain and tied for 13th.

That remains his best finish this year.

Woods is trying to become the first player in 50 years to repeat as Canadian Open champion, and at least this time he should be able to stick around Royal Montreal until the end.

Woods hit only two wayward drives, but neither cost him a bogey. He made an eagle on No. 13 with a 7-iron from 195 yards into 10 feet, and gave himself 11 birdie putts inside 20 feet. He converted three of them, but the other putts peeked in the hole.

"I'm pleased with the way I just kind of plodded my way along," Woods said.

Daly was pleased that he built on his victory in Germany. He was shocked by the manner in which he posted a 66. No bogeys.

The next step for Daly — not to mention Woods and the other co-leaders — is playing Friday afternoon on a course that already was beginning to get firm and fast under the blustery winds.

O'Meara was the only player among the top seven who had to play Thursday afternoon.

His drought hasn't been nearly as long or turbulent as Daly's, but it has been three years since he won the Masters and the British Open.

Woods no longer has to think about his past experiences at Royal Montreal. On the course he missed his only cut, he now is a partial owner of the course record.

SENIORS ALLIANZ CHAMPIONSHIP: The buzzing of chain saws replaced the thwack of clubs hitting golf balls on the rolling grounds of the Glen Oaks Country Club.

It should have been a carefree, fun-filled day leading up to the inaugural Allianz Championship for PGA seniors. Instead, it turned into a scramble for cover as rain and lightning, then what some witnesses described as a funnel cloud, tore through the course.

The storm hit during the pro-am competition Thursday and dealt a disheartening blow to an event that was highly anticipated after the nearby Des Moines Golf and Country Club drew large crowds for the U.S. Senior Open two years ago.

Crews began cleaning up the course and repairing the damage within minutes of the storm's passage, and they worked through the night. Friday's start was delayed by three hours, even as more threatening weather approached from the west.

The storm knocked down six leaderboards, toppled trees, littered the course with tree limbs and blew over a trailer used by a catering company. Roofs on two skyboxes overlooking the 18th green were blown in.

The golfers had left the course about an hour earlier because of lightning and heavy rain. There were no reports of storm-related injuries.