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Woods falls six shots off pace

2009-03-13 06:56

Miami - Tiger Woods made an unremarkable return to strokeplay golf on Thursday, finishing on one under par in the WGC-CA Championship first round and six shots behind the leaders.

American world number three Phil Mickelson, India's Jeev Milkha Singh, South African Retief Goosen and Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng shared the clubhouse lead after firing seven-under-par rounds of 65.

Woods was making his first appearance in a strokeplay event since his playoff win at the US Open nine months ago.

The world number one cut short his 2008 season in mid-June to have reconstructive knee surgery before returning to the PGA Tour at last month's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Starting on the back nine, Woods bogeyed the par-three 13th after finding the bunker just short of the green and two- putting.

The 33-year-old took another four on his 13th hole where he found water but the biggest frustration for Woods, who made three birdies, was his putting.

"I hit so many putts that looked good. I thought I hit my lines and thought I had the right speed but they just didn't go in," said Woods, who was philosophical about a score that equalled his worst on a course which is one of his favourites.

"It wasn't like I hit bad putts. If I was struggling on the greens then I would be a lot more frustrated but I hit good putts and they just didn't go in.

"That's all right. If you continue hitting good putts, they will go in," he said.

While all the attention was on Woods with the crowds flocking to follow his round, Indian Singh enjoyed an excellent day.

The 37-year-old birdied seven out of nine holes in a purple patch in the middle of his round after a bogey on the par-four 11th.

"I'm very happy with the way I am striking the ball. I putted really well today, for the first time this year and I hope to keep that going," he said.

Asian tour regular Marksaeng finished his round in style with three birdies but the brightest finale belonged to Mickelson who chipped in on the last two holes to share the lead.

British Open and US PGA Championship winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland fired a bogey-free round to finish among a group of players one shot behind the leaders on six under par.

There was disappointment for England's Oliver Wilson who was among the leaders thanks to birdies on the par four 16th and 17th but double-bogeyed the 18th to end on five under par.

Defending champion Australian Geoff Ogilvy, the world number four who has been in fine form this year, finished one over par after producing two bogeys and a solitary birdie.

Reuters