- The Washington Times - Friday, August 18, 2006

MEDINAH, Ill. — Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were more of a sneak preview than the main event.

Together in a major for the first time in five years, both shot 69 — not usually a bad start in the PGA Championship, but certainly nothing special in the context of yesterday’s record scoring at Medinah Country Club.

Lucas Glover made a strong opening statement about his Ryder Cup hopes with three birdies on his last four holes for a 6-under 66, giving him a share of the lead with Chris Riley, one shot better than seventh-alternate Billy Andrade.

They were among 60 players who broke par at Medinah, billed as the longest course ever for a major (7,561 yards) but playing more like a pushover in soft, calm conditions. It was the most rounds under par since the PGA Championship switched to stroke play in 1958, two more than the second round at Riviera in 1965.

It was an assault on par and a march toward the Ryder Cup.

Davis Love III, in dire need of a good week to make his seventh straight team, was on the verge of tying the course record until he whiffed a shot with a wedge, took triple bogey and shot 68. He was joined by Stewart Cink, another Ryder Cup hopeful, and J.J. Henry, who is eighth in the standings and trying to show he belongs on the U.S. team.

Woods summed up his summit with Mickelson with numbers, not words.

“Sixty-nines,” he said. “We all kept ourselves right in the ball game.”

“He’s in his own world and we take care of our game and our business,” Mickelson said. “It’s a fun day and we shake hands afterwards. We both played OK today, but we both had a chance to go a little lower.”

U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, tagging along with the Masters and British Open champions, easily kept pace and joined them at 69. He didn’t see any fireworks, only loads of photographers.

“The dynamic was exactly like probably every group this morning,” he said.

So were the scores.

Mighty Medinah was more of a cream puff under such benign conditions. When the PGA Championship was played here seven years ago, only 35 players broke par and the course played about a stroke harder.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it,” Cink said. “If somebody shoots 20 under this week, then they are going to be the PGA champion, and they are going to have to go through a whole lot to win this tournament. It’s a tough win no matter what.”

It could be tougher with so many players challenging. Those 60 players were separated by five shots after one day.

Billy Mayfair, two weeks removed from surgery for testicular cancer, was among the leaders at 6 under until he ran out of steam on the hillier back nine and settled in at 69.

Also at 69 was Sergio Garcia, known in these parts for that improbable shot he gouged out of the base of a tree on the 16th hole when he came close to toppling Woods in 1999. This time, he languished over a 2-foot par putt on the 16th hole and missed it badly to the right.

“It’s a shame I go and miss a short putt on probably my favorite hole on the golf course,” Garcia said.

Jim Furyk and Retief Goosen were among those at 70. Ernie Els, whose father-in-law died in South Africa early yesterday, shot 71.

The attention was on Woods and Mickelson, playing in the same group at a major for the first time since the 2001 Masters.

Only about 300 fans were waiting for them on the 10th tee at Medinah — a 25-minute walk from the clubhouse — to start the round.

They shook hands in a small tent while picking up their scorecards, just as they would if this were the Buick Invitational.

“Nice 3,” Woods said to Mickelson after Lefty rolled in a 4-foot birdie putt at No. 11, the type of conversation heard at the Memorial.

Mickelson birdied the first two holes, then hit a stretch where he missed seven out of nine greens. He saved par on all of them except the par-3 second hole, pulling a 4-foot putt.

Woods made a sloppy bogey on the par-5 10th, cussing and flipping his club at the bag when he missed the green with his third shot, then chipped 35 feet by the hole. But he recovered with a key 7-foot par save on the 13th, and an unlikely birdie on the par-5 14th when he hit a blind 7-iron off a trampled lie in the rough and holed a 30-foot putt.

Otherwise, they were just another group of players taking dead aim at Medinah.

“No one was walking to the other side of the fairway to avoid the other,” Ogilvy said. “And no one was walking across the fairway to talk to each other, either. It was a typical first day at a major championship.”

Glover missed the cut in the first three majors this year, but much more is at stake in this one. He is 14th in the Ryder Cup standings.

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