Woods takes 1-shot lead at Hazeltine

Updated: August 14, 2009, 2:44 AM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

CHASKA, Minn. -- Tiger Woods got off to the kind of start he's been looking for at the major championships this year, shooting a 5-under 67 at Hazeltine National Golf Club to take the first-round lead at the PGA Championship.

Woods, coming off consecutive victories at the Buick Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, broke 70 in the opening round of a major championship for the first time since the 2007 British Open at Carnoustie.

Thursday was the 12th time Woods had shot in the 60s in the opening round of a major; he has won 7 of 11 majors when shooting in the 60s in the first round.

"Really good round today," said Woods, who led by one over defending champion Padraig Harrington. "I hit a lot of good putts that just lipped out and hit the edges. It could have been a really good round today."

The closest Woods came to making a bogey was at the par-4 18th, his ninth hole, where he made a 10-footer for par after missing the green and coming up short on his chip shot.

Otherwise, it was about as solid as it gets, especially in a major championship.

Woods hit 12 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation. He needed 29 putts.

"It was just how efficient he played," said Rich Beem, the 2002 PGA champion who played with Woods and Harrington in the morning threesome. "It never even looked like he was going to make a bogey. It was easy."

Woods' first birdie came at the 12th, a par 4 that measures more than 500 yards but where the tees were moved up Thursday. Woods roped a 3-iron onto the green and made the putt, then hit his approach over the green at the 642-yard, par-5 16th, but got up and down for a birdie.

He added birdies at the second, third and seventh holes and had good chances at the eighth and ninth.

Although Woods could have gone lower, he's not complaining. He went into each of the three previous majors with considerable hype after winning in the start prior, only to be in a tie for 20th after the first round of the Masters, a tie for 81st at the U.S. Open and a tie for 68th at the British Open.

He went on to tie for sixth at the Masters and U.S. Open and missed the cut at the British Open.

"You have to play well at the right time, and that's about it," said Woods, who has five victories this year and is trying to win his first major since the 2008 U.S. Open. "I just didn't put it all together the other three major championships. The first two I was there with a chance; the last one I wasn't, but hopefully I will be this one as well."

If so, it appears he'll have Harrington to contend with again, just as he did Sunday at the Bridgestone Invitational, where the winners of five of the past nine majors engaged in an entertaining duel until a triple-bogey 8 by Harrington at the 16th led to Woods' victory.

Harrington had been mired in a yearlong slump while working through swing changes until his tie for second last week, the first time he's finished in the top 10 on the PGA Tour since winning the PGA at Oakland Hills last year.

"I focused well," Harrington said. "That would be the key for me. I think I'm happy, my mind is clear on my swing, so I'm happy with that, and my focus was good."

Phil Mickelson struggled off the tee and with his short putts in his round of 74.

"I haven't putted this bad in a long time. You cannot win golf tournaments putting like that," Mickelson said. "I'm going to do something I haven't done in a long time, which is go to the practice green after a round and spend some time. I've got to get this figured out before tomorrow."

Mickelson has played sparingly this summer, spending most of his time at home with his wife, Amy, and his mother, both of whom are being treated for breast cancer. He skipped the British Open, and his appearance at Bridgestone was his first since the U.S. Open.

"I don't feel like I'm playing as bad as I've been scoring," Mickelson said. "If I don't throw away those little 3-footers here and there, I'm a few under par. I didn't make any 15-footers. Those were the key there. I had five, six, good looks at it, and didn't make any of those."

In the traditional group of major champions this year, Lucas Glover was the only one to break par with a 71. Masters champion Angel Cabrera had a 76, while British Open winner Stewart Cink had two double bogeys in his round of 73.

Australia's Robert Allenby was two back of Woods and a shot behind Harrington after a 69 and tied with fellow Aussie Mathew Goggin, Vijay Singh, David Toms, Hunter Mahan and Alvaro Quiros.

The long-hitting Quiros, who has won three times on the European Tour, found himself apologizing to Woods and Harrington after hitting his second shot onto the green at the 606-yard, par-5 11th while they were putting.

"I said, 'Nothing to apologize for. That's a hell of a shot,'" Woods said. "That shot he hit on 11 ... I mean that's just stupid long. It was averaging 300 [yards on each shot] into the wind."

Singh and Toms, both past PGA champions, should get the best conditions in the second round. Singh hit his best shot around the trees and into the sun, not seeing that it spun back an inch or two from the hole at No. 16.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com