Tiger Shooting for 5th Straight PGA Win

Saturday, September 2nd 2006, 1:47 pm
By: News On 6

NORTON, Mass. (AP) _ Starting strong has never been a problem for Tiger Woods at the Deutsche Bank Championship. A year ago, he made it look easy on his way to a 65 to take the lead after the first round, then never broke par the rest of the week on the TPC of Boston and finished in a tie for 40th. Two years ago, he opened with a 65 to share the lead, then wound up losing the tournament and his No. 1 ranking to Vijay Singh. Maybe that explains his schedule Friday afternoon after Woods hit a 90-foot bunker shot to within 4 feet for birdie on the last hole, giving him a 5-under 66 and a one-shot lead.

He went straight to the range.

``It could be better,'' Woods said.

He is going for his fifth straight PGA Tour victory at the Deutsche Bank, his longest winning streak in six years. And on an overcast afternoon with swirling breezes, Woods showed little evidence that his big run was about to stop.

First came nine holes of playing it safe, aiming away from the flags because the breezes kept changing directions and he didn't want to take any risks. In the open spaces of the back nine, he added two more birdies to put himself atop the leaderboard for the 10th time in his last 16 rounds dating to the second round of the British Open.

``It was nice to get off to a quick start,'' Woods said, speaking of the first round, not so much the tournament that benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation.

Aaron Baddeley, playing in the same group as Woods, stayed with him most of the day until having to lay up on the 18th. He made par for a 67, joining Bob May, Justin Rose, Joe Ogilvie and Australian rookie Nathan Green.

As well as Woods is playing, he continues to be graced with good fortune. No, he didn't get free relief from hitting a shot over the clubhouse, but he could not have asked for a better tee time. Heavy rain is expected over the weekend, and Woods will try to build on his lead Saturday morning before the storm is due.

``Hopefully, we can go out and post a good round tomorrow and get it in, then sit back and wait,'' Woods said. ``Because when this golf course gets wet, it gets really long.''

Woods was on his way to the top of the leaderboard with three birdies on the front nine, including a 30-foot chip-in on the par-5 seventh, and he played more aggressively on the back nine.

The only glitch on the TPC of Boston came on the 13th hole when Woods' driver clattered into the trees and dropped into the rough. He tried to bend a shot around the trees, but it hit a drain in the middle of the fairway and kicked into the rough. He hit a nice flop to 5 feet and missed the putt.

But he got a break on the 18th.

From the fairway, his lie was on a slope with the ball below his feet, which set up a left-to-right shot. Trees hugged the left side of the hole, so he played over the oaks and tried to fade it back toward the green. It missed in the right spot, dropping into a bunker, and Woods' blasted out to the top of the hill and watched it roll to 4 feet.

``I clipped one little leaf there,'' Woods said. ``I thought the shot would have gotten to the green as good as I hit it _ evidently not. But I had a good lie (in the bunker) and it came out really nice.''

Baddeley was tied for the lead with a 12-foot birdie on the ninth, but one bad tee shot and a lapse of concentration slowed him. He fanned a 6-iron into the hazard on the 12th hole and had to make a 15-foot putt to escape with bogey. Then, he hit his tee shot on the 14th into the woods, did well to come up short of the green and failed to get up-and-down.

The biggest surprise might have been May, who is trying to work his way back from a severe back injury that had kept him off tour since the middle of 2003. He finished second at B.C. Open and now is at No. 127 on the money list, leaving him a good chance to retain his card for next year.

``It really is a second career for me because it opened my eyes and showed me how fortunate I am to be playing this game,'' May said.

May is best known for his duel with Woods at the 2000 PGA Championship, where he matched him shot-for-shot in the final round until losing a three-hole playoff at Valhalla. That was perhaps the peak of Woods' game, the year he won nine times and took three straight majors.

May is on the upward swing again, and despite being gone for 2 1/2 years, it looks as though nothing has changed.

Woods is still on top of his game, and atop the leaderboard.