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GOLF Rusty Woods frustrated as Buick opens



Published: Mon, February 17, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



There's no leader in the clubhouse because none of the 156 players finished the opening round.

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- His opening tee shot was still climbing into the foggy sky when Tiger Woods sighed and held out his right arm to warn the gallery where it was headed.

He cursed under his breath.

He waved his hand like a fish when a putt slithered away from the cup.

He angrily tossed his wedge at the bag when he muffed a chip.

Out of competition for two months because of knee surgery, Woods showed a little rust and a lot of frustration Thursday in the Buick Invitational.

"Just a nasty day," he said.

Rain suspension

The golf wasn't all bad. Woods managed two birdies -- on the only two holes where he hit the fairway -- and was 1-under through nine holes when the first round at Torrey Pines was suspended by rain.

There was no leader in the clubhouse because none of the 156 players finished the opening round. Arron Oberholser, who last competed against Woods in college, was leading at 6-under with two holes to play.

The round was scheduled to resume this morning.

The return of Woods was highly anticipated, but some of the excitement was missing because of a bizarre delay.

Fog was so thick on a couple of holes along the Pacific Ocean that players couldn't see where they were aiming, so the entire round was suspended for four hours.

Even in the misty conditions, fans saw what they wanted -- the world's No. 1 player back at work. The gallery crammed around the first tee and stood elbow-to-elbow on a clubhouse balcony to get a glimpse of Woods, who had surgery Dec. 12 on his left knee.

It took awhile to see the kind of play they were expecting.

In the woods

Doctors told him the best thing he could do for his knee was to avoid the trees and sidehill lies, but Woods got a little of both on the first hole. He wound up missing the green to the right with a 3-wood, flubbing a chip from deep rough and settling for par.

Woods didn't appear to have any problem with his left knee, even crouching for a long time to study the line of his putts.

Woods missed the second fairway to the left, flew the green on the par-3 third hole, then missed the fairway to the right on No. 4. His approach from thick grass was in trouble as soon as it left his club.

"Darn it! Bite! Bite!" he screamed.

Instead, the ball went into the gallery, some 30 feet beyond the hole. His chip barely made it to the green, and Woods angrily tossed his wedge at the bag before the ball stopped rolling. He made bogey to go 1-over, then slowly got back into form.

Woods hit his first fairway at No. 5, and a punch shot into 15 feet set up his first birdie. Two holes later, however, another drive sailed into the thick grass and Woods turned toward the Pacific and cursed again.

That was the last of the damage -- no more bogeys the rest of the round. He spun back an approach to 6 feet for birdie on No. 8 to get to 1-under, but wasted another chance on a par 5 when his drive at No. 9 was in grass so deep he could barely see the ball.




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