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Archive for Friday, February 14, 2003

Weather, Woods’ woes hot topics

Tiger suffers poor play, frustration, four hours of fog delays

February 14, 2003

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— A soupy fog made Tiger Woods wait four hours before he could tee off Thursday in the Buick Invitational.

Then, a mixture of sun, clouds, drizzle and rain caused him to change clothes seven times over nine holes. Worse, he hit only two fairways and muffed two chips by the time the first round was suspended.

This isn't how he envisioned his return to the PGA Tour.

Out of competition for two months because of knee surgery, Woods showed a little rust and a lot of frustration in the two hours he spent on soggy Torrey Pines. He was at 1 under par and will return today to play a shot from under a tree in the rough.

Arron Oberholser was at 6 under par through 16 holes, although none of the 156 players completed the round. The delays totaled four hours because of fog that made it difficult to see a couple of par 3s along the Pacific Ocean.

Even in the misty conditions, fans saw what they wanted -- the world's No. 1 player back at work.

The gallery crammed around the first tee and stood elbow-to-elbow on a clubhouse balcony to get a glimpse of Woods, who had surgery Dec. 12 on his left knee.

It took awhile to see the kind of play they were expecting.

His opening tee shot was still climbing into the white shroud when Woods extended his right arm and yelled, "Fore!" as his ball sailed into the trees.

Anguish is displayed on Tiger Woods' face after his tee shot sailed
over the green on the par-3 third hole of the North Course at
Torrey Pines. Woods was 1 under when play was suspended Thursday
during the opening round of the Buick Invitational in San Diego.

Anguish is displayed on Tiger Woods' face after his tee shot sailed over the green on the par-3 third hole of the North Course at Torrey Pines. Woods was 1 under when play was suspended Thursday during the opening round of the Buick Invitational in San Diego.

Doctors told him the best thing he could do for his knee was to avoid the trees and sidehill lies, but Woods got a little of both on the first hole. He wound up missing the green to the right with a 3-wood, flubbing a chip from deep rough and settling for par.

Woods didn't appear to have any problem with his left knee, even crouching for a long time to study the line of his putts.

If there was threat of injury, it could have come from his rotator cuff, considering how often he changed clothes -- from a rain vest on the practice range in a drizzle, to a sweater, back to the vest, then to his shirt, and back to the vest when it rained at the end.

"The problem was I didn't dress properly," he said. "I was either too hot or too cold."

His temper was running hot.

Woods missed the second fairway to the left, flew the green on the par-3 third hole, then missed the fairway to the right on No. 4. His approach from thick grass was in trouble as soon as it left his club.

"Darn it! Bite! Bite!" he screamed.

Instead, the ball went into the gallery, some 30 feet beyond the hole. His chip barely made it to the green, and Woods angrily tossed his wedge at the bag before the ball stopped rolling. He made bogey to go 1 over par, then slowly got back into form.

Woods hit his first fairway at No. 5, and a punch shot into 15 feet set up his first birdie. Two holes later, however, another drive sailed into the thick grass and Woods turned toward the Pacific and cursed again.

That was the last of the damage -- no more bogeys the rest of the round. He spun back an approach to 6 feet for birdie on No. 8 to get to 1 under, but wasted another chance on a par 5 when his drive at No. 9 was in grass so deep he could barely see the ball.

His knee should get a real test today.

Woods will have to finish his nine holes in the morning, then play his second round on the tougher South Course.

Oberholser is a rookie on the PGA Tour, but he is familiar with Woods.

In Woods' final year at Stanford, he and Oberholser (San Jose State) traded spots atop the amateur rankings until Woods finished the year ahead.

Woods turned professional that summer and already is regarded as one of the best players ever, with eight majors and 41 victories worldwide in his first six years. Oberholser hopped around the mini-tours, but finally made it to the big leagues.

"Having him back out here is nice," Oberholser said. "It's nice to be able to play against the best player in the world."

Skip Kendall was at 5 under with two holes remaining, while the group at 4 under included Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland, who had an ace on No. 3 on the North Course.

Phil Mickelson and Pat Perez, who grew up playing Torrey Pines, were at 3 under.

PGA Tour rules official Mark Russell said players would resume the first round at 7:30 a.m., local time, although that won't be easy.

The practice range is small at Torrey Pines, and even though officials plan to erect lights in the morning, only about 40 players can hit balls at the same time.


  • Divots: Vijay Singh, who spent more than four hours hitting balls on the range Tuesday, withdrew because of a rib injury. ... Mark O'Meara took a 9 on the par-4 fifth hole, was 7 over par through nine holes and withdrew. His father is having surgery Monday in Orlando, Fla.

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