LEMONT, Ill. — Tiger Woods got off to the kind of start that puts records in danger. By the end of the round, he was barely hanging on.
After birdies on three of his first five holes, Woods struggled to play the rest of his round at 1-over par, scratching out a 70 Friday. But with his competition falling off one by one, that was good enough to keep him in the lead at the 100th Western Open.
"If I would have played better and still shot this number, I would have been pretty hot," Woods said. "But the way I drove it on the back nine and some of the iron shots I hit in there, yeah, you're a little bit disappointed.
"I hung in there and I didn't shoot myself out of the tournament, and I kept myself there at the top of the board. So overall, it was still pretty good."
Woods was at 11-under 133 for the tournament. David Toms (69) was one shot back, and Cliff Kresge (68) and Scott Verplank (65) were two behind Woods.
Former Western Open champion Robert Allenby (67) was three strokes off the lead, while U.S. Open champ Jim Furyk (66), Robert Damron (69), Mike Weir (70) and Heath Slocum (70) were all lurking at four shots back.
Vance Veazey, who began the day one shot behind Woods, had a round so up-and-down he had to be dizzy by the time it was over. He had bogeys on four of his first five holes, then four straight birdies to get to 10 under.
But he gave back five shots over his last seven holes, including a double-bogey on 18 after going into the water. He finished at 75, and was six strokes behind Woods.
Woods tied a course and tournament record with a 63 in the first round Thursday, a resounding answer to all those who say he's in a slump. And he looked as if he might go even lower early Friday.
He got a 1-footer for birdie on the first hole, then made a 15-footer on the third. After two-putting from 30 feet on the par-5 5th, he was at 12-under and looking as if he was going to have a round as hot and steamy as the temperatures at Cog Hill's Dubsdread course.
But as Woods is fond of saying, golf is a fickle sport. And it reminded him of that once again Friday.
"I got off to a perfect start," he said. "I just didn't quite keep it going."
His troubles started on No. 7, when he pushed his drive so far right the ball wound up buried in a clump of trees behind the cart path. Woods was clearly irked, taking a swing at his bag when he reached the trees.
He took a drop, then put that shot on the lip of a greenside bunker. He managed to escape with only a bogey, and got the stroke back with a birdie on the par-5 9th.
But he found more trouble on the backside. A monster drive on the par-4 13th left him just 150 yards from the hole, but he hooked his second shot left and it landed in a bunker clear across the green from the pin. He got within 3 feet, then two-putted for bogey.
"You've got to go out there and hit good, quality shots. And I didn't do that today," he said. "I didn't hit the ball that well coming in. I didn't drive it very good. The only good thing is I was really putting well. I just didn't give myself a whole lot of looks at birdies."
At least he finished well. He got off to a disastrous start on the 18th, putting his drive against the top lip of a bunker. He blasted out to the fairway, then hit a wedge to about 10 feet.
It was a tough par putt, too, with plenty of break. But he rolled it right into the cup, and Woods broke into a wide grin, taking a batting-practice swing with his club.
"Some days golf can be, as we all know, one of the easiest games we've ever played. And then the very next day, it's like, 'Is this the same person?"' Woods said. "That's the challenge of it."
Divots: Former Northwestern standout Luke Donald shot a 65, sharing low-round honors with Verplank and Dudley Hart . . . Hunter Mahan, playing his first tournament as a professional, was 10 strokes back after a 68 . . . There was a rain delay of 1 hour and 6 minutes early Friday . . . Because of storms in the forecast, groups will go off both tees again Saturday.