Randhawa Takes Lead at HSBC Champions

Thursday, November 9th 2006, 12:54 pm
By: News On 6

SHANGHAI, China (AP) _ Playing in his first tournament in five weeks, Tiger Woods had a double bogey on his second hole and finished the opening round of the HSBC Champions tournament seven shots behind leader Jyoti Randhawa.

Woods, who had gone 39 days without hitting a competitive shot after winning the World Golf Championship by eight shots on Oct. 1, shot an even-par 72 Thursday.

``I was right there in a position to get to 4 under,'' Woods said. ``Unfortunately, it didn't happen that way _ it went the other way _ and I left myself an awful lot of work with three days to go.''

India's Randhawa made seven birdies and finished with a 65 to take a one-stroke lead over 2005 U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell and two others. Scotland's Marc Warren and South Korea's Yang Yong-eun also were at 6 under.

Padraig Harrington, who clinched the 2006 European Order of Merit title two weeks ago at Valderrama, Spain, and Thailand's Plaphol Chawalit had 67s and were tied for fifth after the opening round. Five players, including Retief Goosen and K.J. Choi, were at 4 under. Chris DiMarco, Colin Montgomerie and Peter O'Malley each shot 3-under 69.

The Asian Tour's No. 1 player, Jeev Singh of India, played in Woods' group and was at 2 under.

Woods finished one stroke better than Jim Furyk, who had five bogeys and four birdies in a 1-over 73. Woods started with a birdie at the 10th, but followed it with a double-bogey 6 after hooking his drive into some trees.

``It throws the momentum off in the wrong direction,'' Woods said. ``Tomorrow, I hope to get off to a better start.''

Woods made back-to-back birdies at the second and third holes _ his 11th and 12th of the day _ to move to 2-under, but had a bogey at the par-5 eighth, pushing a fairway wood into rocks and water trying to reach the green in two.

``Very frustrating,'' he said.

Randhawa called the $5 million tournament _ the first of the 2007 season on the European Tour and jointly sanctioned by the PGAs in Asia, Australasia and South Africa _ almost as big as a major.

``It was one of the biggest rounds of my career _ a big tournament, big players,'' he said. ``So to be leading gives me great pleasure.''

Randhawa, who won the Indian Open after a three-way playoff last month, said he tried to ignore the hype.

``It's great to have gotten a good round in a field like this _ especially with Tiger Woods. (But) I try not to think about that _ it might break my rhythm,'' he said.

Tennis star Roger Federer was in the crowd as a special guest of Woods. Federer is in Shanghai for the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup, which starts Sunday. Woods watched the Swiss star win the U.S. Open in September.

The pair talked in the clubhouse immediately after Woods' round.

``Rog is a great guy. We've become good friends. For him to come out here and watch and support is special,'' Woods said. ``He's busy. He's getting ready for the tournament here on Sunday. He's going to go back now and start hitting.''

Woods has not lost a 72-hole event since July 9, when he finished two shots behind Trevor Immelman at the Western Open. Woods said the long break did a lot of good after an intense year in which he won two majors but also coped with the death of his father and with criticism for skipping the PGA's season-ending Tour Championship last week in Atlanta.

Still left on his schedule is the two-day Grand Slam of Golf on Nov. 21-22 in Hawaii, followed by the Target World Challenge on Dec. 14-17 in Thousand Oaks, Calif., an unofficial event that raises money for his learning center.

``Oh, I needed it,'' Woods said of the break. ``It was a lot. I know I don't play that much golf, but it's how the schedule worked out this year and I was awfully tired. It's always nice when you get that break and the light's at the end of the tunnel.''