<
>

Five tied for AT&T lead; Woods stumbles to 73 with 7 bogeys

BETHESDA, Md. -- Tiger Woods stood at the third tee, soaking
wet from a sudden downpour and frustrated by bogeys on the first
two holes of his own tournament.

It didn't get any better after that.

After a brief rain delay, Woods continued to be a much more
gracious host than he had planned. By the time his round was over,
he had missed a 2-foot tap-in, hit a man in the face with a drive
and tossed his putter in frustration at his bag several times.

His Thursday scorecard at the inaugural AT&T National included
seven bogeys in a 3-over round of 73, tied for 77th place and seven
shots behind five co-leaders: Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, K.J. Choi,
Joe Ogilvie and Stuart Appleby.

Woods putted 34 times, including three three-putts, and he
missed every attempt longer than 8 feet.

"It's one of the worst putting rounds I have had in years,"
Woods said. "I'm going to have to figure out something for
[Friday] because evidently what I'm doing is not even close to
being right. I've got to fix it. I've got to get back in this
tournament."

Woods hadn't played since finishing second at the U.S. Open
three weeks ago, and he said he still had the fast greens of
Oakmont on his mind on a damp, humid day at Congressional Country
Club. He kept leaving his putts short, sometimes well short,
frustrating both himself and a large gallery that kept showing its
appreciation by shouting out remarks such as: "Hey, Tiger, thanks
for bringing golf to D.C."

Since the U.S. Open, Woods has become a father and had to deal
with the last-minute logistics of joining Arnold Palmer and Jack
Nicklaus as the only golfers to host a PGA Tour event. Even so, he
said he wasn't any more nervous than usual at hole No. 1.

"That was the easy part, getting out there and playing," Woods
said. "The other responsibilities, that's something you don't
normally do. Once I get back inside the ropes, I get back in my
comfort level, and I felt at peace going out there and competing."

At peace, but not at his best. His first tee shot landed in the
thick rough, and his first putt of the day lipped out, prompting a
puzzled look as he rubbed his upper lip with his index finger. He
bogeyed the par-3 No. 2 after misplaying a sand shot, then was
standing at the No. 3 tee box in the rain when the horn sounded to
stop play.

The delay was only 18 minutes, but it seemed to calm Woods. He
birdied two of the next three holes but was woefully inconsistent
the rest of the round. He figured his final putt at No. 16 was a
gimmie, so he tried to tap it in with an awkward stance and missed.

At No. 18, his tee shot hit a man in the face and shoulder.
Woods gave the man an autographed glove and apologized, then went
on to bogey the hole with another miss from 2½ feet.

Meanwhile, 28 players were under par on 7,204-yard, par-70
course that was expected to be a tough test with its high rough and
long par 4s.

"There's a bunch of guys up there right now," Woods said.
"I've got three rounds. I can't get them in one."

The leaderboard is an eclectic mix of styles, ranging from the
long-hitting Singh to older, lay-up players such as 51-year-old
Fred Funk and 47-year-old Corey Pavin, who are both one stroke off
the lead. In the star partnership of Phil Mickelson (74) and Adam
Scott (72), Brad Faxon outshone them both as the third member of
the threesome, beating might with accuracy with a steady 69, even
as his partners consistently out-drove him.

"When they put the deep rough like they have this week, that's
my equalizer," Funk said. "The harder the golf course, the better
for me in my opinion."

Mickelson, who is battling a left wrist injury, was rusty in his
first tournament since missing the cut at the U.S. Open. Mickelson
didn't wear a brace and blamed two bogeys and a double bogey on his
putting rather than his injury.

"I was told that it may hurt, but I won't be doing any more
damage," Mickelson said. "So I've been going after it pretty
good, and it does hurt, but as long as I am not doing any more
damage I'm OK."

The last time Woods played a competitive round at Congressional,
he finished 19th at the 1997 U.S. Open. On that Sunday, he finished
his round and said: "The suffering's over. This golf course beat
me up."

Ten years later, he was ready to beat up his putter.

"I'm about ready to break this thing," he said.

Divots
NCAA champion Jamie Lovemark was one shot off the lead
with a 67. The 19-year-old amateur just finished his freshman year
at USC. ... There were no bogey-free rounds and only two eagles:
Funk holed out from 139 yards at the par-4 No. 12, and Brett
Wetterich eagled the par-5 ninth.