Woods gets hot af­ter bad start at Quicken Loans

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY BEN NUCKOLS

Tiger Woods took a con­ser­va­tive 3-wood off the first hole Thurs­day in the Quicken Loans Na­tional when many play­ers were hit­ting driver. No mat­ter — he still pull-hooked it into the gallery, hit his sec­ond shot into a green­side bunker and lipped out a 5-footer for par be­fore slam­ming his put­ter against his bag.

On the third hole, he missed the green well left and had to get upand-down for bo­gey. A three-putt on No. 4 left him 3 over. It was his fi­nal bo­gey of the day. Woods got a for­tu­nate de­flec­tion off a mar­shal left of the green on the par-5 fifth. He apol­o­gized, handed out an au­to­graphed glove and made his first birdie. Then he ran off five birdies in six holes around the turn for a 3-un­der 68. That left him five shots be­hind lead­ers Retief Goosen and Ryo Ishikawa at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club.

Woods said it was the first time since the Mas­ters in April that he’s turned a bad round into a good one.

“That’s what scor­ing is all about,” Woods said. “I made a lot of key putts to­day. I ran them by the hole but I made all the come­backs, and over­all I felt like I hit the ball well enough to turn it around. It was nice to ac­tu­ally turn it around.”

Woods is the host of the Quicken Loans Na­tional, which he won in 2009 and 2012 at Con­gres­sional in Mary­land. The last of his 79 PGA Tour vic­to­ries was nearly two years ago, and he has plum­meted to 266th in the world.

Woods got up-and-down from a green­side bunker for birdie on the par-5 eighth. He made a 9-footer on 10 and a 7-footer on 11. He hit his ap­proach to tap-in range on 12, the most dif­fi­cult hole on the course, and ended the run with a 12-footer on 13. He two-putted for par on the fi­nal five holes.

The 68 was only his sixth round un­der 70 this year. He has had three scores of 80 or higher and has missed three cuts and with­drawn once in eight events.

In soft con­di­tions with lit­tle wind, Woods’ 68 was only good for a tie for 27th. Play­ers were al­lowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls on the rain-soft­ened fair­ways, and 81 of them man­aged to break par.

“We got the fresh greens to­mor­row,” said Woods, who played in the af­ter­noon af­ter a 95-minute rain de­lay. “Hope­fully, go out there and post a low one.”

RTJ is wel­com­ing a reg­u­lar PGA Tour event for the first time af­ter host­ing four Pres­i­dents Cups, most re­cently in 2005, and ex­pe­ri­ence seemed to help. Goosen, who played in two of those events, had a bo­gey-free 63. Pres­i­dents Cup vet­er­ans Ernie Els and Justin Leonard were one shot back, along with Kevin Chap­pell.

Goosen, a 46-year-old two-time ma­jor cham­pion, is fi­nally feel­ing healthy af­ter ma­jor back surgery in 2012. Al­ways stoic on the course, he still has plenty of pas­sion for the game, which he showed by qual­i­fy­ing for both the U.S. Open and the Bri­tish Open.

“I’m lucky to be out here. Three, four years ago my ca­reer looked like it was at an end,” said Goosen, whose last vic­tory was in 2009. “I’m just glad I’m still out there and play­ing. Yeah, I just wish I was 10 years younger again.”

Ishikawa, who started on the back nine, ran off six birdies in a row start­ing on the 14th hole. Then he made a hole-in-one on the 180-yard fourth, spin­ning an 8-iron 15 feet back into the cup for his first com­pet­i­tive ace in the United States.

At that point he was 8 un­der with five holes to go. He parred the last five.

“It took about two holes to make my­self calm,” he said. “No. 5 was a par 5, like a birdie hole, but it was kind of dif­fi­cult for me to make a par right there.”

De­fend­ing cham­pion Justin Rose, the high­est-ranked player in the field, was three shots back. So was Ol­lie Sch­nei­der­jans, mak­ing his sec­ond pro­fes­sional start.

Rickie Fowler also made an ace, kick­ing a 7-iron off the fringe and into the cup on the 184-yard ninth, his fi­nal hole of the day. He was four shots back af­ter a 67 that could have been much bet­ter.

Fowler said his put­ter went cold af­ter his vic­tory at the Scot­tish Open, and on Thurs­day he missed four birdie putts from in­side 15 feet in a five-hole stretch. Three of his four birdies were from in­side 4 feet. Honor­ing a club golf tra­di­tion, he bought beer for the media to toast his hole-in-one.

“I hit a great shot. Get a lit­tle bit of a good kick. Hey, we’ll take it,” Fowler said. “Look­ing for­ward to get­ting back out to­mor­row and see if we can get some putts to go.”

AP

Tiger Woods watches his ball go to the first fair­way from the rough dur­ing the first round of the Quicken Loans Na­tional Golf tour­na­ment at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Vir­ginia, Thurs­day, July 30.

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