Thursday, February 28, 2013


reporting from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida 
Tiger Woods showed here on Thursday that he can play from water, even if he does not walk on it any more. He also proved he still has his competitive spirit.
When the world No 2 drove his ball into the lake on the par-four sixth (his 15th) a backmarker number in the first round of the Honda Classic seemed inevitable.
 Woods never has accepted “inevitable”.
He took off his shoes and socks, put on his waterproof trousers, jumped in, advanced the ball to within 80 yards of the hole and made par courtesy of an eight-footer. He then birdied the next and half an hour later was signing for a far-from-disastrous level-par 70.
“I’ve had to do it before unfortunately,” Woods said. “But it was only half submerged, so I could play some kind of explosion shot and get it back in the fairway. I was looking at making a six, going three over, but all of a sudden I’m even.”
The moment reminded one of a Woods advertisement which featured him strolling across a lake. That was in 2008 when he was considered without fault. The statistics seemed to highlight his faults on Thursday.
Woods took 32 putts, seven more than South Africa’s Branden Grace (who, alongside the Canadian Graham DeLaet, shared the early lead on five under). But putt after putt went to the brink of the cup for Woods. “I hit the ball well today and on top of that I hit good putts; but I didn’t get the feeling of this grain,” Woods said.
 “I hit so many putts that were solid but went right around the edge. I’ll just stick with what I’m doing because it’s not very far off.”
Woods said something similar after last week’s first-round loss to Charles Howell in the World Matchplay. What these huge crowds would give for the 14-time major champion to be up there this weekend.
Rarely can a regular tour event boast such an attendance on a Thursday morning; but they love their golf in Palm Beach and it appears the majority still love Tiger. One fan had ‘TW’ shaved not only on the back of his head, but also on the back of his two children’s heads. On the side they had carved out the figure ‘75’, in honour of their hero’s number of wins on the PGA Tour.
Last year was a sponsors’ dream as Woods shot a final-round 62 to push Rory McIlroy. The Ulsterman hung on to claim the title and the world No 1 spot. McIlroy was an afternoon starter today and it says much about his popularity that the Woods crowd stayed to watch the acclaimed heir.
By then, Justin Rose was in the clubhouse wondering why he was feeling indifferent after a two-under 68. The answer was obvious – the Englishman had dropped three shots in the last four holes. On his 14th green (the fifth) it had seemed so easy.
“I was sure that putt was in and it would have taken me to six under,” said Rose, reflecting on the 12-footer which swung around the cup. “But now here I am on two under. So yeah, I’m disappointed. But it’s a good start in the context of the tournament.”
Rose has been one of the game’s most consistent ball-strikers for the past 18 months and, when his putter consents, his world No 6 ranking can appear almost as an insult. After yanking a two-footer on the 11th (his second) the flat-stick relented with a 10-footer on the 13th, two 15-footers on the 14th and 15th, a 20-footer on the 16th and a 25-footer on the first.
“I’m really pleased with where my putting is,” said Rose, who has been working with David Orr since last June. A good putter rescues bogeys as well as it conjures birdies. And Rose’s six-footer on the last, after visiting a wretched spot at the back of a greenside bunker, was an example of that.
Rose was but three off the pace, with Dustin Johnson looming ominously near the top of the leaderboard after a four-under 66.
Camilo Villegas (Colombia) came in with a six-under 64 to take over the top spot from Grace, DeLaet and Rickie Fowler.
Lee Westwood posted a 66, one fewer than Graeme McDowell.
Rory McIlroy matched Tiger's 70.
Martin Laird and Ross Fisher are both on the 71 mark.
Paul Casey had a sad 78.
Par 70
Players from US unless stated
64 Camilo Villegas (Colombia).
65 Branden Grace (S Africa), Graham  DeLaet (Canada), Rickie Fowler, Robert Streb.
66 Boo Weekley, Sean O'Hair, Dustin Johnson, Fabian Gamez (Argentina), Billy Horschel, Lee Westwood (England). Seung-Yul Noh (S Korea), Ben Kohles, Doug Labelle.
67 Graeme McDowell (N Ireland) (T16).
68 Justin Rose (England) (T30).
69 Ernie Els (S Africa), Louis Oosthuizen (S Africa), Nicolas Colsaerts (Belgium) (T40).
70 Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy (N Ireland) (T61).
71 Martin Laird (Scotland), Ross Fisher (England), Martin Kaymer (Germany) (T81).
72 David Lynn (England) (T102)
73 Greg Owen (England), Jamie Donaldson (Wales) (T117).
78 Paul Casey (England), Brian Davis (England) (T140).





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