Sat, Jul 17, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Woods battles for lead at Royal Troon

BRITISH OPEN While Mike Weir and Kenny Perry had the early clubhouse lead, the world's top-ranked golfer showed signs of life


Tiger Woods of the US plays from the second tee on day two of the British Open at the Royal Troon golf course in Troon, Scotland, Friday. Woods is winless in his last eight entries in major championships.


Tiger Woods briefly flirted with the lead yesterday at the British Open before stumbling with a pair of bogeys, while Mike Weir and Kenny Perry shared the early clubhouse lead as the wind picked up at Royal Troon.

Woods, winless in his last eight major championships, got to within two shots of the lead with two early birdies before familiar problems with wayward tee shots and a missed 3-footer for par dropped him back to even par for the day and 1-under for the tournament through 12 holes.

Weir, meanwhile, birdied three straight holes on the front side on his way to a 68 that put him at 3-under 139 through two rounds. Perry, one of the few Americans on the leaderboard, birdied the 18th hole for a 70 to tie Weir.

The two first round leaders, England's Paul Casey and France's Thomas Levet, had late tee times as the wind began blowing harder on Scotland's west coast. Both shot 5-under 66s in the first round.

Woods, whose lone British Open win came four years ago at St. Andrews, appeared poised to make a run when he birdied the fourth and sixth holes to get to 3-under, just two shots off the lead.

But he missed a 3-footer for par on No. 7, a 12-footer for birdie on the Postage Stamp eighth and then banged his putter in disgust after missing an 8-footer for bogey on the ninth hole.

The most international of Opens lived up to its reputation in the opening round Thursday, offering up an eclectic collection of international players at the top and a pair of unlikely leaders in Casey and Levet.

Woods shot an opening round 1-under 70 on Thursday, a day in which the nearest American to the lead was tied for 13th.

If you're keeping track -- and they like to do that at the Open -- the last time an American wasn't in the top 10 on the leaderboard after the first round was in 1959 when American Bob Sweeny was tied for 59th.

That has something to do both with the increasingly better play of international players -- who have won the last six tournaments on the PGA Tour this year -- and the fact that 52 PGA Tour pros didn't even try to qualify to fly across the ocean for a major championship.

Before this, Americans had been on a nice streak in the Open, winning six of the last nine as well as the last five held at Troon.

"You would think you'd aspire to play in the greatest championship, the one with the most history," said Rich Beem, who is one of the Americans tied at 13th after an opening 69. "This is one of the great tournaments we'll ever play, if not the best tournament in the world."

Some up-and-coming international players certainly felt that way after the wind off the Firth of Clyde died down and Royal Troon played about as easy as it will get in the opening round.

Ernie Els had a hole-in-one, England's Gary Evans had a rare double eagle and 56 players ended the day at par or better.

The shots were spectacular, and the scoring wasn't bad, either.

Campbell was a stroke back with a 67, while a veritable United Nations of players that included Vijay Singh, K.J. Choi and Scottish amateur Stuart Wilson were another shot behind at 68.

"I saw my name on the board, and it was tremendous," said Wilson, the British Amateur champion.

It wasn't as easy for a pair of Americans whose names always seem to pop up whenever there is talk about a major championship.

Woods had to make two key par saves to finish with a 70, the first time he has broken par in the opening round of a major since the 2002 PGA Championship.

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