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Woods emerges

With fog and wind inhibiting some rounds and cutting short others, Tiger Woods churns to the lead with a record 65.


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 16, 2000

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- The Monterey peninsula offers the opportunity to experience all four seasons in the same day. If you don't like the weather here, just wait a few minutes.

Shirt sleeves and sweaters were in style Thursday during the opening round of the 100th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links as radiant sunshine was replaced by eerie fog.

But as temperatures soared and sunk, as the wind changed from steady to blustery, there was golf's man of cool and calm, Tiger Woods.

With ever-increasing fog drifting in off Carmel Bay, Woods put the finishing touches on a 6-under 65, the lowest score in four U.S. Opens at Pebble Beach. The fog eventually caused the suspension of the round.

Woods made six birdies and no bogeys and holed putts from everywhere but 17-Mile Drive to take a one-shot lead on Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez (66). Safety Harbor's John Huston shot his best score in 27 U.S. Open rounds, a 67 that put him two shots back and tied with six-time major championship winner Nick Faldo, who completed 13 holes.

When the round was suspended at 6:56 p.m., there were 75 players who had yet to complete 18 holes. They will resume this morning at 9:45, with the second round to begin at 11.

"It was a weird-looking fog," said Bradenton's Paul Azinger, who finished with par-71. "It was almost like smoke or like dry ice, like it looks on a stage. It was so low to the ground. It was kind of neat."

"I thought it was funny," said Tom Lehman, who also shot 71. "On this side of the course (near the 18th green), it was a little bit dark. On the other side, it was sunny and bright."

None of it mattered to Woods. The game's No. 1-ranked player might not have been able to see some of his tee shots land, but when he found them, they typically were in the fairway and a long way from the tee.

Woods, who has won 11 of his past 20 PGA Tour events, shot his 12th consecutive sub-par round including a European tour event in Germany. Some extra work on his putting Wednesday helped. Not only did Woods make six birdies, but he also had five par-saving putts of at least 6 feet.

"Since I've been here my stroke hasn't been as comfortable as I'd like to have it," Woods said. "I didn't like the way I was rolling the ball, and I worked on it for a couple of hours and found that my posture was a little off, I wasn't releasing at the right time. I just needed to get some reps in and I putted beautifully."

Woods already has experienced success this year at Pebble Beach, coming from seven strokes back with seven to play during the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February to capture his sixth PGA Tour victory in a row.

Since then, Woods added victories at Bay Hill and the Memorial. He also finished fifth at the Masters, where he put himself in trouble with an opening-round 75.

"It's a lot easier to play from a spot near the lead than when you're that far behind," said Woods, who leads the tour with four victories this year and has 19 for his career at age 24. "I had a lot of guys I had to try to pass. ... I just tried to go out there and drive the ball well, and I felt if I did, I could score. I drove it beautifully."

Huston did not have to endure the weather problems experienced by most of his peers. With a 9:40 a.m. tee time, he had pristine conditions in which to play.

"I thought it was going to be a big advantage, and I wanted to go ahead and take advantage," Huston said. "Fortunately I did. It was just perfect. There was no wind, the sun was out. The greens were perfect."

Huston, 39, found it much easier to make his tee time because he was staying at The Lodge at Pebble Beach, meaning he could all but roll out of bed and onto the first tee. That's the good news. The bad news is the price.

PGA Tour players who are staying on property receive a "reduced rate" of $425 a night. With the family along for the trip, Huston has two rooms. "I bit the bullet," he said. "Plus there's all that California tax. Tax on tax on tax."

But Huston figured the price was worth it. Getting to stay so close means less traffic headaches.

"I've learned that if you're not right here, it's a huge hassle getting around," he said. "I figure if it saves me one shot, it more than pays for itself."

Plus, it makes it easier to fetch a change of clothes, which is very important at Pebble Beach.

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