Tiger sets the early pace with five-under

Tiger sets the early pace with five-under

Class Act: American world number one Tiger Woods snatched the first-round lead at Hazeltine National. AFP

Fresh from back-to-back wins on the PGA Tour in the last two weeks, the world number one delivered a superb display from tee to green on the monster Hazeltine National course.

Woods, in pursuit of his 15th major victory but first this year, birdied three of his last eight holes to finish a stroke in front of playing partner and defending champion Padraig Harrington.

Twice champion Vijay Singh of Fiji, 2001 winner David Toms and fellow American Hunter Mahan, Australians Robert Allenby and Mathew Goggin and big-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros were all on 69.

Britain's Lee Westwood, who finished one stroke out of a playoff for last month's British Open won by American Stewart Cink, was among a group of eight on 70.

Although the 7,674-yard layout is the longest to stage a major, Woods and company took advantage of its generous fairways and softened greens in hot, humid conditions.

"The way the course is set up you can be a bit aggressive," Woods said after recording his lowest opening round at the PGA Championship since firing a 66 at the Valhalla course in 2000.

"I played really well today and felt very comfortable with what I was doing. It's always nice to get off quick.

“In the first round you can play yourself out of a golf tournament but you certainly can't win the tournament on the first day.

Woods, champion in 1999, 2000, 2006 and 2007, totalled 29 putts including three from 20 feet or more.

Irishman Harrington, who clinched last year's title by two shots at Oakland Hills, relished his high-profile grouping with Woods in front of huge galleries.

Harrington is bidding for his first victory on either the PGA or European tours this season after working hard on refining his downswing over the last eight months.

Vijay Singh, champion at Sahalee in 1998 and Whistling Straits in 2004, was among the best of the afternoon starters and soared up the leaderboard with five birdies and two bogeys.

Several big names, however, failed to take advantage. American Phil Mickelson, the 2005 champion at Baltusrol, opened with a 74, US Masters champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina carded a 76 and Australian Adam Scott slumped to an 82.

Scores (first round): 67: Tiger Woods (US). 68: Padraig Harrington (Ire). 69: Robert Allenby (Aus), Mathew Goggin (Aus), Hunter Mahan (US), Alvaro Quiros (Esp), Vijay Singh (Fiji), David Toms (US). 70: Paul Goydos (US) Thongchai Jaidee (Tha), Graeme McDowell (Bri), Lee Westwood (Bri), Michael Bradley (US), Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Esp), Soren Kjeldsen (Den), Ben Crane (US). 71: Hiroyuki Fujita (Jpn), Rory McIlroy (Bri), Bo Van Pelt (US), Sergio Garcia (Esp), Rich Beem (US), Anders Hansen (Den), Geoff Ogilvy (Aus), Brendan Jones (Aus), Lucas Glover (US), Luke Donald (Bri). 72: Keith Dicciani (US), DJ Trahan (US), Charlie Wi (SKorea), Scott Hebert (US), Carl Pettersson (Swe), Nathan Green (Aus), Dustin Johnson (US), Tom Lehman (US), Mike Miles (US), Soren Hansen (Den), Louis Oosthuizen (SA), John Merrick (US), Bob Tway (US).

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