- The Washington Times - Friday, July 6, 2001

LEMONT, Ill. (AP) Phil Mickelson is on one of those hot streaks where even bad shots right themselves. Tiger Woods, on the other hand, has hit a rough patch not even a fishing vacation can cure.

Mickelson, who won the Greater Hartford Open last weekend, was bogey-free yesterday, shooting a 6-under 66 to finish one back in the first round of the Western Open.

"The goal Thursday is really just to get into contention, not to shoot way up the leaderboard," Mickelson said. "The goal is to have a shot on Sunday. This is a nice start."

It's going to take more than that for Woods, who took last week off after finishing out of the top 10 in consecutive tournaments for the first time since 1999. He struggled all day, overshooting greens, missing putts and hitting shots so maddening he actually broke a club on the 18th hole.

A double-bogey on the par-4 18th left him at 1-over 73, eight strokes behind leader Mark Wiebe. Davis Love III also shot a 66, tying Mickelson at one back.

"I told my wife, when I'm playing well, I know it," said Wiebe, who hasn't won a PGA Tour event since 1986. "I just feel like I'm playing really good golf right now."

Ditto for Mickelson.

After shooting a 75 in the final round of the U.S. Open, Mickelson dug out his old psychology notebooks from college. He practiced some visualization techniques, seeing what he wanted to do rather than worrying about what he didn't want to do.

The trick worked at the GHO, and the good vibes continued yesterday as he birdied his first hole. He ran into some trouble on his last hole, the par-5 9th, but he saved himself as only golfers on a roll can do.

About 300 yards from the front of the green, Mickelson tried to slice a driver. Instead, his shot went way left, landing in a group of trees beyond the cart path.

He hit into a bunker in front of the green, and then blasted out, with the ball rolling within 4 inches of the hole. He tapped in for par, smiling widely as the crowd roared.

"You are not going to go low four days, but when you do have it and you start making some putts, you need to capitalize on those rounds," he said. "I still need to have another one or two low rounds to be on top Sunday."

Despite a five-day trip to Alaska last week, Woods looked like he could use another vacation. He three-putted the par-4 No. 3 for a bogey, and had to fight just to make par on most holes.

His frustration was evident on the par-4 No. 7, when he overshot the green by about 20 feet on his second shot. As the crowd groaned, Woods slammed his club into the ground and then tossed it backward.

Even when he hit good shots he didn't seem to enjoy it. On No. 9, his drive landed in the right rough, about 20 feet behind a line of trees.

The trees were too tall to go over, and there was only a 6?-foot gap that he could shoot through. But instead of playing it safe, Woods hit a low whistler through the gap, just missing the hanging branches.

Even though the shot landed in a bunker, it was still impressive. But Woods just walked on.

He finally birdied a hole on the par-3 14th, but things got really ugly on 18. He put his second shot in the water, breaking his club afterward, and then two putted.

He refused to talk after his round, a rarity.

Wiebe didn't even realize he was playing bogey-free golf until he finished. He birdied three holes in a row on the back nine Nos. 11, 12 and 13 and picked up another on No. 17.

He almost birdied 18, but his 22-foot downhill putt lipped out ever so slowly. Wiebe bent his knees, and then smiled.

Love, who is trying to build up his stamina after missing two months earlier this season with a bulging disc, wasn't even supposed to play the Western Open. With plans to play Monday and Tuesday before leaving for the British Open, he worried about overextending himself.

But when he missed the cut at the Greater Hartford last week, he decided to come to Cog Hill. He got off to a fast start, with birdies on three of his first four holes.

"I kind of got on a roll," Love said. "I'm surprised I didn't get a couple of more the way I was going."

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