Woods, Mickelson usual site atop Doral

By BOB HARIG, Times wires
Published March 3, 2006

MIAMI - Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson appeared to pick up right where they left off last year at Doral.

They dueled on the back nine of the Blue Monster course at the Ford Championship at Doral in 2005, with Woods prevailing by a stroke and setting a tournament record at 24-under par.

Both are on pace again after Round 1.

Woods opened with a bogey-free, 8-under-par 64 and Mickelson was in a five-way tie for second at 65 along with Rich Beem, Ryan Palmer, Mark Wilson, Dean Wilson and Camilo Villegas.

"It seems as though this guy, Tiger, seems to play well every day, every week," Mickelson said. "I'm just trying to keep pace. I'm trying to maybe have another shot at dueling out with him on Sunday and I'm glad that he's playing well. I've got to do my part and stay with him."

Woods, who has victories at the Buick Invitational and at the Dubai Desert Classic on the European tour, said his round was one of his best of the year.

"I drove the ball really well," he said. "Some of the things that I've been working on are starting to come together. I played like this (last week) at La Costa. Only difference is I made putts."

THE 18TH BLUES: Doral's finishing hole has long been one of the most feared in golf, with a lake to the left, bunker to the right and a long, narrow green on the other side of the water that leaves little margin for error.

As technology made the hole shorter, it became less feared - until Doral added some 40 yards to the hole before last year's tournament, stretching the par 4 to 467 yards.

Now the hole is feared again, but it is still much easier for the longest hitters. They can hit their drives over a portion of water and into a safe landing area. Meanwhile, the shorter hitters have to thread their drives through the opening.

"I just don't think it's fair," said David Toms, a medium-length hitter who shot 66. "Why do I have to hit into whatever that little fairway is, and then, a third of the field can just hit it as hard as they want to? What if you're trying to win the tournament against one of those guys? I think it's a bad setup the way they have it. To me, it's either go back even farther (with the tee) so maybe just one or two people can do it. Or move it up so that we all have same shot."

AROUND DORAL: Valrico's Michael Bradley, who won Doral in 1998 but has had injuries in recent years, shot 66. ... Clearwater's John Huston opened with 75, and Tampa's Ryuji Imada had 72. Dade City's Tim Petrovic had 71. ... With virtually no wind, only 27 players out of 144 shot over par. The scoring average was 70.315. ... Nine of the top 10 ranked players in the world are at Doral, and three - No. 1 Woods, No. 5 Mickelson and No. 9 Toms - were in the top 10 after one round. No. 2 Vijay Singh was tied for 12th.

EUROPEAN PGA/ASIAN TOUR: David Higgins , Wang Ter-chang , Simon Dyson and Thonchai Jaidee shot 6-under 66 to share the first-round lead in the $1-million Indonesia Open at Jakarta. Thailand's Thonchai eagled the par-5 first hole and added six birdies, but dropped back to the pack when he bogeyed the 18th on the Emeralda course. Irishman Higgins had seven birdies with one bogey, and Wang, winner of last month's Malaysian Open, finished with eight birdies and two bogeys. Dyson of England combined a first-hole eagle with six birdies against two bogeys. American Anthony Kang , Sweden's Steven Jeppesen and Australia's Anthony Brown , Andrew Buckle and Brad Kennedy opened with 67. Defending champion Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand had 72.