OAKVILLE, Ontario -- Kevin Sutherland and Tiger Woods were not sure whether to come to the Canadian Open. Only one of them was glad he did Thursday.
Sutherland, whose wife gave birth to their first child 10 days ago, committed to play at the last minute and responded with his best opening round of the year, a 7-under 65 at Glen Abbey Golf Club to take a one-stroke lead over Cameron Beckman.
Woods, meanwhile, was in unfamiliar territory -- in the trees, in the water, behind a television tower, next to a hospitality tent, and far removed from the leaders. A two-putt birdie on the 18th gave him a 72, and barely kept alive his streak of 36 rounds at par or better.
''Golf is a fickle game,'' Woods said. ''There are times you struggle and still post a good score. Other times, you play beautifully and don't shoot anything. Today was a mixture of both.''
Sergio Garcia, still charged by his 1-up victory over Woods in their made-for-TV exhibition last week, was tied with Sutherland at 7 under until a couple of sloppy bogeys down the stretch dropped him to 67.
''To be able to beat Tiger probably is the best thing that has happened to me,'' said Garcia, playing his final tournament in North America this year.
He was joined by Canadian-born Brian Watts, J.L. Lewis and Jesper Parnevik, who made birdies on four of the last five holes.
Davis Love III and Justin Leonard were among those at 68.
This is the final tournament of a fabulous summer for Woods, who shattered records at the U.S. Open, completed the Grand Slam at the British Open and then became the first player since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win three straight majors with his thrilling playoff victory at the PGA Championship.
Next up is a five-week break, and Woods looked like he could hardly wait to get started.
''I'm going home to get some rest,'' he said, deciding against going to the practice range.
Sutherland, a 36-year-old who has never won on the PGA Tour, arrived on the shores of Lake Ontario in an entirely different frame of mind. He has played only three times the past two months, and was home in California the last two weeks for the birth of his son, Keaton.
''If my wife didn't say, 'Why don't you go play?' I probably wouldn't have come,'' he said. ''I may be a little rusty, but I felt I was ready to play. I just stayed within myself, hitting good shots and making good putts and didn't get too far ahead of myself.''
He soared into the lead by playing his first nine holes in 6 under, starting with a 40-foot birdie putt on No. 11 and making a 20-foot eagle putt on the 18th. Sutherland ran off a string of six pars, then hit a 4-iron to 6 feet for his only birdie on front nine.
It was the first time all year Woods began a tournament in the afternoon. Under warm, sunny skies with a fickle breeze, several early finishers predicted Woods would waste little time working his way toward the lead.
For a while, they were right.
''All of a sudden, it kind of went south,'' Woods said.
He was 3 under through eight holes when his game unraveled quickly, starting with a three-putt from 20 feet on No. 9.
Woods pulled his drive into the trees on No. 11 and tried to play out of the rough and over the trees to the green guarded by water. But he hit it heavy and went into the pond, leading to his first double-bogey since the 12th hole of the third round in the PGA Championship.
The fun was only starting.
He hooked his second shot into the par-5 13th behind a TV tower to take away his chance for birdie, missed the next green and took a bogey. He failed to birdie the par-5 16th when his approach from the rough sailed over the green into a bunker.
''The back nine was not pretty,'' he said. ''As bad as I felt, to shoot even par is pretty good.''
Woods, who hit seven of nine greens on the front, hit only two greens in regulation on the back nine as he struggled to stay in the short grass.
He'll need to do better than that to kick his Canadian habit. The last time Woods played in the Canadian Open, he missed the cut in 1997 at Royal Montreal. It's the only time he missed a cut in his PGA Tour career.
He returns as a megastar, and while Tigermania in Canada was tame compared to other stops, it was no less evident. The chart showing where players were on the course included a tiger's tail, and one cameraman carried a handheld microphone that had a Tigger doll attached.
Steamed over a lost birdie chance on the 16th, Woods was trying to collect his thoughts on the tee box when a fan engaged in casual conversation.
''Can you wear spikes out here, Tiger?'' the man said.
Woods, unable to ignore the question, turned up the heel of his shoe to show him. Then he turned, slammed his driver into the turf and promptly hit another drive into the trees, down a slope next to a tent.
It was a wild show, but not the kind anyone has come to expect.
DIVOTS: Hank Kuehne, a former U.S. Amateur champion without a tour card, is in the Canadian Open on a sponsor's exemption but probably shouldn't be playing at all. Lifting his shirt sleeve, he revealed a 3-inch scar from surgery just nine weeks ago, primarily to repair a torn tendon in his biceps. Kuehne had an 80. ... Caddies no longer need a calendar or a heat index to determine whether they can wear shorts. The PGA Tour approved a policy Wednesday that allows them to wear shorts all year long. Among caddies who weren't expecting the rule change was Steve Williams, who brought nothing but long pants to Glen Abbey to carry Tiger Woods' clubs. ... Greg Rita, fired last week by David Duval, is caddying for David Gossett on a temporary basis. Bob Riefke, who split with Justin Leonard, was on Harrison Frazar's bag.
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