Sat, Jun 02, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Illness and injury strike the favorites at Muirfield Village


Tiger Woods was waiting on the edge of the 10th green when an approach shot from Charley Hoffman whizzed by his head and missed him by about a meter. Woods was about the only one who dodged illness or injury at the Memorial on Thursday.

Phil Mickelson withdrew after 11 holes because of an injury to his left wrist, which he suspects happened at Oakmont club this week as he practiced chipping out of the deep rough while preparing for the US Open.

"I couldn't grab the club and I couldn't swing," Mickelson said.

Masters champion Zach Johnson had to stop after 15 holes with strep throat so severe he turned down his first interview.

"Sorry guys, I can't talk," he hoarsely whispered.

The scoring at Muirfield Village couldn't have been better with pure greens, stifling heat and calm conditions. Leading the way was Sean O'Hair, who played great golf for the second straight tournament except for a blemish on the 17th hole. He still managed a 7-under 65 and was tied with the Australian duo of Rod Pampling and Nick O'Hern.

Ernie Els was among those at 66, a guy who felt so sick about his putting that he went to the cross-handed style and had few complaints, other than it felt weird to ditch the conventional style that carried him to three majors.

Even so, the theme of the first round seemed to be about survival -- especially those who didn't.

For those who anticipated a duel between Mickelson and Woods, that ended before the world's No. 1 player even got to the practice range. Mickelson felt the first sting after a wedge on the second hole, and he had a massage therapist holding and rubbing his hand on the back nine until he hit another wedge out of a divot on the 11th.

Woods' biggest rival turned out to be par on a day in which nearly half the field broke par. He was headed in that direction after a beautiful shot from a fairway bunker and over the pond to 3m for birdie on the sixth, his third in four holes, to reach 3 under.

But he made bogey with a wedge in his hand on the next hole, added a few other sloppy mistakes and needed a late birdie for 70.

"Today was the day to really shoot some good numbers," Woods said. "Look at the field -- they pretty much did. If you didn't shoot under par, you're going to get run over out there today."

He also got knocked down by Hoffman, whose tee shot on No. 10 hit a cart path and bounced out-of-bounds. He went back to the tee as Woods and Bart Bryant played on, and Woods was seemingly out of the way on the front right corner of the green when a small Titleist missile missed him by a meter.

"If you can't beat him, take him out," Hoffman joked after a remarkable round.

He made double bogey at 10, then shot five straight birdies and closed with a six to finish at 72.

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