And just two holes into the Western Open in Lemont, Ill., Mark O’Meara knew it.
“Three-wood off the tee, sand wedge to 2 feet. Next hole, driver, 3-iron on the front edge of the green, pitched it to 2 feet,” O’Meara said. “Yeah, I’d say he’s fine.”
Tiger Woods’ game hadn’t been fine, so the 21-year-old Masters champion spent a week fishing, watching TV and relaxing.
He showed Thursday at Cog Hill’s Dubsdread course that the time off helped. Playing in a threesome with O’Meara and John Cook, he opened with a 5-under-par 67 to put him just a stroke behind O’Meara - his Orlando-area neighbor, practice partner and fishing buddy.
“I was fresh, ready to go,” said Woods, who hadn’t broken par in 11 of his previous 12 rounds. “Last few weeks, I’ve been kind of tired. When I went home last week, I just put the clubs away for a little bit. And I felt rejuvenated.”
Dave Stockton Jr., Jim Furyk and Phil Blackmar also were one shot behind O’Meara in the $2 million, Motorola-sponsored tournament. David Duval was another stroke back. Former Spokane resident Kirk Triplett shot a 76.
Despite the presence of most of the tour’s top players, just about all eyes were on Woods.
It didn’t matter to the thousands of fans in Woods’ gallery that he had an average take of $13,428 in finishing 67th, 19th and 43rd in his last three tournaments.
Woods’ day included his birdie-birdie start, a string of three straight birdies midway through the round, and a birdie-birdie finish. On his final hole - the 568-yard, par-5 9th - he drove 316 yards into a 14 mph wind, hit a 3-wood past the pin and two-putted.
It wasn’t a perfect round, though. On No. 18, he missed a 6-foot par putt. After he tapped in for one of his two bogeys, he pulled the ball from the cup and threw it into the pond to the left of the green.
“I was just frustrated, trying to punish the ball,” Woods said. “I think it deserved to go in the water.”
O’Meara has also slumped lately. Since tying for third in the Bay Hill Invitational in March, he has finished higher than 30th in only one of eight events.
Webb leads LPGA tournament
Karrie Webb shot a 29 on her second nine to charge into a one-stroke lead after the opening round of the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic in Sylvania, Ohio.
Webb, who started on the back nine of the 6,319-yard Highland Meadows Golf Club, was 1-under at the turn and then rode remarkable iron play to a 5-under back nine and a 6-under 65.
Two shots behind Webb were Ohio native Tammie Green, Vickie Odegard and 1994 Jamie Farr champion Kelley Robbins.
Tracy Hanson of Rathdrum, Idaho, and Nancy Lopez were among seven players at 68. Defending champion Joan Pitcock shot a 76.
Webb’s wedge to 3 feet secured a birdie on No. 1 and she dropped a 25-footer at No. 4 to get to 3-under and begin a run of three straight birdies. Approaches to within 3 feet at No. 5 and 1 foot at No. 6 yielded tap-in birdies.
She finished her round by making an 8-footer for birdie at No. 18, breaking out of a tie with Laurie Rinker-Graham and Kim Shipman.
“Wind pockets were swirling out there but I was knocking it stiff on the front nine,” Webb said. “I was on a roll, so the wind didn’t bother me at all.
“It’s the most comfortable I’ve felt in a while striking the ball,” said Webb, the the LPGA’s first-ever million-dollar winner as a rookie last year and second this season with $515,000.
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