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Tiger Doesn't Get the Welcome He Wanted


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.

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 at 7:30 a.m. Friday.

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.

Woods finally made his grand entrance, and even that was unusual.

His entourage of security and cameras marched along a path toward the first tee on the North Course, although Woods was not among them. He slipped into the gallery, virtually unnoticed until someone bumped into him.

``I needed some space,'' he joked.

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.

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.

If there was threat of injury, it could have come from his rotator cuff, considering how often he changed clothes _ from a rain vest on the practice range in a drizzle, to a sweater, back to the vest, then to his shirt, and back to the vest when it rained at the end.

``The problem was I didn't dress properly,'' he said. ``I was either too hot or too cold.''

His temper was running on the hot side.

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.

His knee should get a real test Friday.

Woods will have to finish his nine holes in the morning, then play his second round on the tougher South Course.

Oberholser is a rookie on the PGA Tour, but he is familiar with Woods.

In Woods' final year at Stanford, he and Oberholser (San Jose State) traded spots atop the amateur rankings until Woods finished the year ahead.

Woods turned professional that summer and already is regarded as one of the best players ever, with eight majors and 41 victories worldwide in his first six years. Oberholser hopped around the mini-tours, but finally made it to the big leagues.

``Having him back out here is nice,'' Oberholser said. ``It's nice to be able to play against the best player in the world.''

Skip Kendall was 5 under with two holes remaining, while the group at 4 under included Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland, who had an ace on No. 3 on the North Course.

Phil Mickelson and Pat Perez, who grew up playing Torrey Pines, were 3 under.
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