American superstar Tiger Woods overcame rainy conditions to hit a five-under-par 65 for a three-stroke lead in the first round of the Dunlop Phoenix golf tournament yesterday.
Playing in Japan for his fourth time without a win, Woods sank a bogey-free five birdies on the par 70 Phoenix Country Club course in western Japan.
After sinking a 5m birdie putt on his first hole on the 10th, Woods made a "lucky" 15m putt for birdie.
"I was just trying to get the ball close, and was just trying to get a par. I got lucky that I made a birdie," the former world No.1 said.
Three more birdies on the 16th, second and eighth holes gave Woods a comfortable lead.
The 2002 champion Kaname Yokoo was lying second on 68, followed by fellow Japanese Hideto Tanihara, Kim Jong-Duk of South Korea and Craig Parry of Australia on 69.
Defending champion Thomas Bjorn of Denmark was tied at 42nd place on 75 with American Stewart Cink and nine Japanese, including top local money-earner Shingo Katayama.
Casey lashes out at US
Englishman Paul Casey will be in for a hard time on the US Tour next year after his outspoken remarks about American golfers, Scott Verplank warned on Wednesday.
Casey, who is in the England team at the WGC-World Cup of Golf this week where Verplank lines up for the US, accused Americans of being ignorant and insular in a Sunday newspaper.
He followed those remarks with criticism of new US Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman on Wednesday.
"I stand by my words," said the 27-year-old Englishman who has a home in Scottsdale, Arizona and plans a heavier schedule in next year's PGA Tour. "Americans do have a tendency to wind people up.
"When they are chanting `USA,' though, it just makes you want to beat them even more. They probably fail to realize it sort of riles us and the rest of the world," he said.
Casey referred back to the infamous 1999 Ryder Cup match, when Lehman, along with several of his team mates, charged across the 17th green after Justin Leonard had holed out from 45 feet with his opponent Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal still to putt.
"If Lehman wins the Ryder Cup back for the Americans, it will be the best appointment they have ever made," Casey said. "I think a lot of people are just afraid that it might bring up a Brookline-type situation at the K Club [2006 Ryder Cup hosting club in Ireland]."