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Tiger solid, but unspectacular

Published: 2:55PM Thursday January 10, 2002


by Stephen Lyon at Paraparaumu Beach.

Tiger Woods' first competitive round of golf in New Zealand went off with something less than a bang as the world No.1 posted a one-under-par 70 in the opening round of the New Zealand Open at Paraparaumu Beach on Thursday.

Woods generally struck the ball well but had trouble holing putts on greens that he had described as tough to read after his practice round on Tuesday.

Speaking immediately after play, he said that he had taken a conservative approach to his opening round and had failed to take proper advantage of the birdie opportunities he had created.

Woods' opening effort left him three shots adrift of the early clubhouse leaders, New Zealand's Stephen Scahill and Australian Craig Spence. Scahill's compatriot Elliot Boult was in a tie for second at three-under after a 68.

Playing with Woods were 1995 champion Peter O'Malley, who recorded a one-under 70, and defending title-holder David Smail who carded a 73.

New Zealand's Eddie Lee, the low amateur at last year's Open, threatened to post a low score as he moved through the first ten holes in three-under-par, but slipped back on the homeward nine to finish at even par.

New Zealand amateur champion Sam Hunt finished with a 73 after double-bogeying the short 16th.

It was a difficult day for New Zealand No.2 Greg Turner as he registered a three-over 74. It could have been worse for the former champion as he was four-over with three holes to play, but clawed back a shot at the 16th.

Playing with Turner, Australian Jarrod Moseley at point reached five-under - the lowest score of the day to that point - but a double-bogey at the par-five seventh ruined any chance he may have had of establishing the early clubhouse advantage.

In absolutely perfect conditions, and watched by a massive gallery, it was O'Malley who was first out of the blocks from the marquee group, holing a 20-foot downhiller at the opening hole for birdie. Woods, who had hit a perfect drive and wedged to about six feet, watched as his birdie putt slid by the edge of the hole.

All three safely negotiated the 11th with pars before Woods took some revenge on the 12th, where he made a bogey in the pro-am on Wednesday. All three golfers hit perfect drives with Woods' effort conspicuous by its length, perhaps 40 yards past that of O'Malley.

Woods was untroubled to reach the green in two, placing an excellent iron shot 15 feet away and pin-high. His eagle putt missed, leaving little more than a tap-in.

O'Malley, who had put his second in the left rough, wedged out to eight feet and sank the putt for his second birdie in the opening three holes. Smail too found the rough with his second but safely wedged out and two-putted for par.

Pars followed at 13 for O'Malley and Woods, but Smail struck more trouble having to drop out of a hazard after a wayward second and taking a double-bogey six.

Par figures were the order of the day for the trio through holes 14, 15 and 16 before Woods made his first significant error of the day, three-putting from 15 feet directly behind the hole at 17.

He had looked on in disbelief as his birdie putt somehow stayed out of the hole and he perhaps rushed his par putt a little.

Any pent-up anger was released on the next tee, though, as he hit a massive drive down the 18th. All three golfers, in fact hit terrific drives, but Woods was the only one to profit, although he will feel as if he was robbed of an eagle, with his putt for a three left hanging on the edge of the hole.

Woods was unable to really get going on the back nine, actually falling back to even par with a bogey at the fourth (his 13th), although he returned to red figures three holes later.

O'Malley promised to move further into contention with a birdie at 13, but double-bogeyed the final hole to slip back to one-under.

Smail was able to rescuer his situation a little, consecutive birdies at 15 and 16 and a par-par finish rescuing a round that had threatened to blow out when he was three-over after just four holes.

At time of writing, New Zealand No.1 Michael Campbell, who won the tournament at this course in 200 had just commenced his first round.