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When Woods Is This Hot, Others Watch the Birdies

Golf: He birdies first five holes and shoots 63, tying Flesch for lead.

October 27, 2000|From Associated Press

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Six weeks later, not much has changed. Those watching Tiger Woods wondered whether he would shoot 59, and those trying to beat him wondered whether this tournament would end like so many others.

Woods returned to the PGA Tour for the first time since Sept. 10 and birdied the first five holes before settling for a nine-under-par 63, giving him a share of the lead Thursday with Steve Flesch in the National Car Rental Classic at Disney World.

"You just expect the fact that he's going to play well every week, because he doesn't give you any reason to think otherwise," Flesch said.

Already a nine-time winner this year, including the last three majors, Woods got off to a torrid start in his bid for a fourth consecutive victory.

He missed only one green, took only 25 putts and felt like he left a few shots out on the Palm Course. Still, the bogey-free 63 was his lowest first round this year, and his 40th consecutive round at par or better on the PGA Tour.

"Any time you start off with five straight birdies and you have 13 holes left, you feel like you can really do some damage," said Woods, the defending champion. "It's hard to be disappointed with a 63. But again, if you're a little greedy, I could have made a couple here and there."

Mike Springer, trying desperately to avoid another trip to Q-school, also birdied his first five holes and wound up with a 64, along with Bill Glasson.

The group at 65 included Carlos Franco and Bob May, who played with Woods for the first time since their dramatic duel at the PGA Championship, where both had a 31 on the back nine Sunday and Woods outlasted him in a three-hole playoff.

"Tiger brings out the best in me," May said. "If he gets it going like he did today, hopefully you get towed along."

That's about what happened.

Perhaps the most amazing part about their round was that Woods didn't have honors to hit first on the tee over the final 11 holes. May matched him birdie for birdie down the stretch, and even drained a 75-foot eagle putt on their 16th hole.

"I still finished two strokes behind him," May said. "Incredible."

Woods last played in the Canadian Open, which he won by hitting a six-iron from 218 yards out of a fairway bunker and over the water on the 18th hole to set up a birdie. He played the Presidents Cup last week, but it's easier to atone for a bad shot in match play.

Woods didn't have many of those Thursday.

"I really felt that my game was coming back to where I left it five or six weeks ago," he said. "I was able to hit so many quality shots, shape the ball the way I wanted to."

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