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Tiger not all smiles at British Open

Photographers irk Woods as he falls three strokes behind pack of leaders

Posted: Friday, July 19, 2002

GULLANE, Scotland -- Tiger Woods may have a fight on his hands.

And not just with the photographers.

After a surprisingly calm and sunny day at Muirfield, the British Open already was shaping up as a different test than the other two majors that Woods won with relative ease.

For the first time in seven rounds at a major championship, his name was not among the leaders. That distinction belonged to PGA champion David Toms, Duffy Waldorf and Carl Pettersson, a 24-year-old Swede who had never played the British Open until Thursday.

All of them were at 4-under 67, making the most of the easiest scoring conditions that Muirfield might allow the rest of the week.

''I took advantage of a perfect day in Scotland,'' Toms said.

Plenty of others lined up behind them.

Shigeki Maruyama and Justin Rose played with Woods and beat him by two strokes. They came in at 68 and were joined by 10 others, including Nick Price and Phil Mickelson. Right behind was Mark O'Meara, who is sharing a house with Woods this week.

''To get off to a good start like this -- especially to clip my roommate by a shot -- I feel pretty good about it,'' O'Meara said.

Woods snapped when the cameras clicked prematurely -- twice -- on the opening hole, and the rest of his round didn't get much better. He finished with a pedestrian round of 70, but hardly sounded the alarm.

''Anything under par is going to be a good score today,'' Woods said. ''You can only shoot yourself out of the tournament the first day, and I certainly didn't do that. I got myself where I needed to be.''

Now if he could just do something about the photographers.

Woods, the first player since 1972 to win the Masters and the U.S. Open in the same year, had to back off his opening tee shot when a camera clicked as he stood over his 2-iron.

He missed the fairway by 20 yards.

Then, another photographer clicked as he was trying to hack out of the rough, and Woods got hacked off.

''You guys got enough ... pictures already?'' he said, glaring at photographers and using a euphemism for a vulgarity.

Woods wound up saving par with a 10-foot putt, but watching the ball disappear into the hole was a rare sight. He missed six birdie chances inside 18 feet and took 34 putts.

''It was frustrating hitting good putts and not going in the hole,'' he said.

Toms had no such problems.

Tough to beat when he gets the flat stick going, Toms rolled in three birdie putts of at least 15 feet, and joined the leaders with a two-putt birdie from 120 feet on the par-5 17th.

''For the most part, I stayed out of the rough,'' Toms said. ''When I had a chance to try to get a shot close from the fairway, I took that chance and capitalized. Other than that, it was a boring round.''

Pettersson had the lead to himself until a bogey on the final hole. Waldorf finished off his round with a 5-iron into 18 feet on the 18th for another strong start at Muirfield. He opened with a 69 in the '92 British Open.

Waldorf, best known for his colorful shirts -- Thursday's was a blue floral pattern -- took no offense when told that a British writer suggested earlier in the week that ''a Duffy Waldorf will not win at Muirfield.''

Muirfield is regarded as a pure test that has produced proven champions -- Nick Faldo twice, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Gary Player.

One thing was abundantly clear Thursday: Muirfield is not Augusta National on steroids, nor is it ''Deathpage,'' the nickname given to Bethpage Black for being the longest U.S. Open course in history.

This Open could be just that -- wide open to players who hit it long or short, just as long as they keep it out of the waist-high weeds and get a few putts to fall.

Toms is a perfect example.

''The first two (majors) were not made for me at all,'' he said. ''Even though I've played well at Augusta, every year I've gone back there they've done something to the golf course to play away from my hands. The U.S. Open, when it got soft, definitely wasn't for me.

''But here, I can win on this golf course.''

Ditto for Price, the 45-year-old winner of three majors in the early '90s when golf was about more than just power. One of the best ball-strikers in the game, Price tied for eighth at Bethpage Black, nine strokes behind Woods.

Despite back-to-back bogeys early in his round, Price opened with a 68.

''I hit the ball better at Bethpage, I really did,'' he said. ''I won the B-flight there. I have no reservations that I can win here.''

Indeed, there was a variety of players hovering around the top after the first day -- the fortysomething crowd of Sandy Lyle (68), Steve Jones (68), and Price; short-knockers like Corey Pavin (69) and O'Meara; and youngsters like Rose and the 24-year-old Pettersson.

Rose played in the same group with Woods and was just as much a star attraction. He burst onto the British Open scene four years ago by holing a chip shot on the last hole at Royal Birkdale to finish in a tie for fourth.

Rose, who missed his first 21 cuts as a pro, already has won four times this season and more than held his own against the No. 1 player in the world.

''He couldn't wait to get out there,'' Thomas Bjorn said after matching Rose at 68. ''Not a lot of guys would be like that if they're going out in the British Open, being English, and playing with Tiger Woods. They would be scared.

''He went out there and took it, and played lovely golf.''

The knock on everyone else was that they were intimidated by Woods, and worried more about him than playing the golf course. Woods won the Masters and the U.S. Open by three strokes when no one made a serious run at him on the back nine.

That wasn't the case in the opening round at Muirfield.

Then again, it's early.

Toms went off in the afternoon, and he killed time Thursday morning watching television coverage -- mostly of Woods.

''He didn't make a putt all day,'' Toms said. ''He still shot under par. He's somebody you have to contend with, obviously. He probably thinks that in the conditions like today, it's as bad as he'll play. He'll be there in the end.''

The different at this major championship is Woods might not have the stage to himself.



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