clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Tiger Woods without a blemish in leading PGA

CHASKA, Minn. — With Tiger Woods still hours from teeing off, the biggest moves at the PGA Championship were coming from back in the field.

Tim Clark and Miguel Angel Jimenez each got back to 1 over par Friday morning, with Clark making birdies on three of his first five holes and Jimenez making a rare eagle. Masters champion Angel Cabrera had two early birdies and is at 2 over.

Vijay Singh looked as if he was going to make a run at Woods, opening his round with a birdie to move within a stroke of the leader. But a bogey two holes later dropped the two-time PGA winner back to 3 under.

Big moves could be hard to come by Friday at Hazeltine National, where it was warm and steamy again and the wind was beginning to blow. That could bode well for Woods, who grabbed the lead Thursday with an efficient 5-under 67.

He missed just two fairways and three greens, and his round was blemish-free, only the third time he's opened a major without a bogey. The other two were at the U.S and British Opens in 2000, where he just happened to win by a combined 23 shots.

"You don't have to be eight ahead after the first round," Woods said. "The whole idea is not to make that many mistakes. All the majors that I've won, I made very few mistakes for the week."

Woods is only 13-11 on the PGA Tour when he has at least a share of the lead, including 4-2 in the majors. And a few of the guys right behind him have been here before.

Padraig Harrington, who has two claret jugs along with last year's Wanamaker Trophy, stayed with Woods through the steamy, breezy morning until a bunker shot on the par-5 seventh was too strong and he had to settle for par. Singh and David Toms, another past PGA champion, both shot 69 while playing in the afternoon.

Still, even if there were no concession speeches from the rest of the field, they know it will be an uphill battle.

"He's human," said Robert Allenby, who is tied with Singh, Toms and three others at 3 under. "Obviously, he's the best in the world, so we expect him to win, because he's the best. He should. But you know what? It's three more days to go. And a lot can happen."

Woods isn't counting his 15th major win — and first this year — quite yet, either. And he isn't the same guy who was tossing clubs, cursing and searching the course for a lost ball at last month's British Open, where he missed the cut in a major for only the second time in his professional career.

He's won the last two weekends, including a tantalizing duel with Harrington at Firestone, and his game appears to get better each time he steps on the course.

Not even the supersized Hazeltine — it played at 7,660 yards despite some tees being moved up because of the wind — could get in his way. He picked up three birdies on the par 5s, including a 3-wood to a back bunker on the 651-yard 15th, with a breeze at his back. He took the outright lead on the par-5 seventh with a 349-yard tee shot, followed by a 6-iron to 30 feet.

He had a chance to expand his lead with birdie putts of 12 and 15 feet on the last two holes, but they burned the lip of the cup.

"Years ago, he had probably more flair in his game," Harrington said. "His game is very solid now. Not that he hit all the shots, but I think he's put a little bit of conservatism on his game. It's nice, and he's very much in control of it."

So much so that he chuckled when Quiros had what might be the shot of the tournament.

The Spaniard hit driver off the deck on the 606-yard 11th hole — into the wind — and it ran onto the green while Woods, Harrington and Rich Beem were still putting. Woods looked back at Quiros and smiled, giving him a thumbs-up.

"That's just stupid long," Woods said, grinning. "To hit it that far into the wind is phenomenal. It's just absolutely phenomenal."

Asked if he was jealous, Woods laughed.

"I used to be able to move the ball. Not anymore," he said. "I just plod my way around, shoot 67."

One man's plodding is almost everyone else's perfection.