St. Petersburg Times Online: Sports

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies


A sloppy return for Woods

©Associated Press

February 14, 2003

SAN DIEGO -- 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.

Welcome back, Tiger.

Arron Oberholser was 6 under through 16 holes, though 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 on a clubhouse balcony to get a glimpse of Woods, who had surgery Dec. 12 on his left knee.

It took a while 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.

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 on the hot side.

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 will have to finish his nine holes this morning, then play his second round on the tough South Course.

JOHNNIE WALKER CLASSIC: Ernie Els roared to the top of another leaderboard, shooting 8-under 64 to take a one-stroke lead at the European/Australasian PGA Tour event in Perth, Australia.

Seeking his fourth victory of the year, Els had thoughts about breaking 60 after playing his first nine holes at 7-under 29 and reaching 8 under with a birdie on No. 1.

"When I birdied No. 1, my 10th hole, to move to 8 under, I must admit I was thinking some silly stuff there," Els said. "It was just for a split second and I came down to earth on 11, making bogey there."

David Lynn had 65, Terry Price was at 66, and Ian Woosnam, Paul McGinley, Peter O'Malley, Chris Downes and Brett Rumford were another stroke back.

Sergio Garcia shot 74, two days after injuring a hamstring kicking a football at a charity event.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.