World No. 1 Tiger Woods surged into a first round lead at the U.S. PGA Championship on Thursday as he began his bid to win a major title for the fifth year in a row.
The American fired a five-under-par 67 to take a one-shot advantage over defending champion Padraig Harrington, who he beat in a final-round duel to win the World Golf Championships event in Ohio on Sunday. Paired once again with the Irishman in Minnesota, Woods made the perfect start as he birdied his second and third holes, and then picked up another shot at his second par-five of the day — the 572-yard seventh hole. Woods, seeking a fifth victory in the tournament, also birdied the 518-yard par-four 12th hole and the 642-yard 15th. “I was just very comfortable with what I was doing today,” Woods told reporters. “The golf course is set up very fair. It’s difficult but as Paddy (Harrington) and I were saying, you don’t usually see pins, six, seven, eight feet from the side. It’s normally three and four. “So you can make birdies and be a little more aggressive going at these flags. You don’t have to be as conservative.” Two-time British Open champion Harrington, back in form after a miserable season so far following his decision to redevelop his swing, did not start so well as he bogeyed the first hole.
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However, the Dubliner matched Woods’ efforts at No. 2 and No. 3 and also picked up a stroke at the par-four sixth hole, then likewise birdied 12 and the par-four 16th. But he might rue the fact that he could manage only go level through the long Hazeltine course’s three par-fives. “The great thing when you play with Tiger is that you know you’re going to have to play the shots,” Harrington said. “It puts you under more pressure and you feel like you might as well go after it rather than hang back. “It actually helps you focus and you know you have to be on your very best form. It motivates you to play well.” Harrington was one shot ahead of a group of six players on 69 made up of three-time major winner Vijay Singh, 2001 PGA champion David Toms, Australia’s Matthew Goggin and Robert Allenby, American Hunter Mahan and Alvaro Quiros of Spain. World No. 2 Phil Mickelson, playing with Toms, never recovered from a double-bogey the par-4 10th hole to card a two-over 74 that puts him in danger of missing the cut. England’s Lee Westwood, who blew a big chance to win his first major during the final nine holes of the British Open, carded 70 to be one ahead of Harrington and Woods’ playing partner, 2002 PGA Champion Rich Beem. The American finished with three consecutive birdies after a nervous start alongside his more illustrious competitors in which he carded a double-bogey seven at the third hole, and ended level with Sergio Garcia. World No. 3 Paul Casey withdrew before his early-morning tee time due to his ongoing rib injury and was replaced by American Tim Petrovic.