- The Washington Times - Friday, May 1, 2009

CHARLOTTE, N.C. | The Masters is over. The Tiger and Phil Show might just be getting started.

Tiger Woods matched the course record with a 30 on the front nine, where he closed with three straight birdies Thursday morning to finish off a 7-under 65 at the Quail Hollow Championship. Phil Mickelson followed in the afternoon by chipping in for eagle and making a remarkable par save from under a video board for a 5-under 67 that put him in a tie for second.

They did not play together, as was the case three weeks ago in an electric final-round pairing at Augusta National. But on a warm and breezy afternoon in Carolina, it seemed as though they were never far apart.

A few fans taunted Woods early in his round, calling out, “Let’s go, Phil!” as he walked by.

Mickelson couldn’t escape a familiar name even as he lumbered to the finish. Fans called out, “You’re only two shots behind Tiger!”

“It’s only one round,” Mickelson said. “There’s a lot of golf left.”

Even so, the Quail Hollow Championship served up quite an appetizer on a course that was reminiscent of Augusta with virtually no rough and slick greens.

The emphasis was not accuracy off the tee as much as wizardry with the short game, and both players were up to the task.

Woods was plodding along the back nine, failing to birdie either of the par 5s, until he ran off six birdies and two splendid par saves on the front nine. After twice putting himself in tough positions, he hit a low pitch out of a swale on the second hole to a foot, then hit another wedge that stopped a few inches next to the cup on the fourth.

“I hit a couple of loose shots here and there, but I really putted well,” Woods said. “I had a couple of key saves - made a nice little up-and-down at 2 and just a really good save at 4 that kept the round going. It’s always nice when you birdie the last three.”

For Mickelson, it was sweet to finish with a par.

From a fairway bunker on the par-4 18th, he wanted to lay up short of the green but pulled his shot while trying to avoid a creek that runs down the left side. The ball went under a large video board, and Mickelson took his free drop on a slope of grass above the cart path.

Then came a wedge that spun just enough to stop two feet away.

“It’s nice to finish with a par,” he said. “I ended up playing a good round.”

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