Furyk in control at Oak Hill

Jim Furyk seizes the lead at the PGA Championships with a 5-under 65 as Tiger Woods stumbles early.

    Furyk in control at Oak Hill
    Woods stumbled in the final hole to finish six strokes adrift [AFP]

    Jim Furyk took advantage of rain-softened conditions to surge into an early one-shot lead at the PGA Championship on Thursday as Tiger Woods double-bogeyed his final hole to finish six strokes adrift.

    American veteran Furyk, whose only major victory came at the 2003 U.S. Open, fired a five-under-par 65 in the opening round to take control on a sunny day at Oak Hill Country Club.

    The 43-year-old piled up six birdies and a lone bogey, at the par-four ninth, to finish one ahead of Canadian journeyman David Hearn, who is making his debut appearance in the year's final major.

    "Obviously I'm pleased with the round, I really felt in control this morning," said Furyk, who has not won on the PGA Tour since 2010.

    "I feel very comfortable with what I'm doing with my driver right now, and I've been doing some work on the putting, as well. Today was probably one of the best putting rounds, if not the best putting round I've had this year."

    Englishman Paul Casey, Americans Robert Garrigus and Matt Kuchar, and Australian Marcus Fraser opened with 67s while American Steve Stricker and in-form Swede Henrik Stenson were among a group of six knotted on 68.

    Late stumble

    Woods appeared to be on track for a one-under round after relying on his renowned scrambling abilities for much of the day but he made a complete hash of the par-four ninth to return a one-over 71.

    After hitting his second shot into tangly rough short of the green, he chunked his third under the lip of a bunker from where he splashed out to 15 feet. His bogey putt then lipped out and he had to settle for an ugly six.

    "I'm still right there," said Woods.

    "As of right now, I'm only six back and we have got a long way to go.

    "I feel like I played well today and made some nice key putts and the key is I left it in all the good spots too. The round realistically could have been under par easily."

    Woods was a heavy favourite coming into this week after romping to a seven-stroke victory at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday, but is hunting his first major victory since the 2008 US Open.

    Hearn, who has played most of his professional golf on the lower-tier tours, began and ended his round with bogeys but piled up six birdies in between to set the early pace.

    The 34-year-old, who lives in Brantford, Ontario where ice hockey great Wayne Gretzky was born, hit 10 of 14 fairways and produced some sparkling approach shots to move into contention for a first victory on the PGA Tour.

    "I did a little bit of everything well, and drove it well," said Hearn, whose best finish on the U.S. circuit was a playoff loss at last month's John Deere Classic.

    "It feels good for me to be in contention and I feel like I've been playing some really good golf the last few months."

    Watched by massive galleries, Woods made an encouraging start with a birdie at the par-five 13th, his fourth hole, where he laid up in two after taking an iron off the tee before hitting a stunning approach to a foot short of the cup.

    He also birdied the par-three 15th, sinking an eight-footer there, to reach the turn in two-under 33.

    Wasted opportunity

    Woods squandered a golden birdie opportunity at the par-four second after he struck a superb approach to three feet, his putt not even touching the hole as it curled away on the low side.

    His round unravelled over the closing stretch as he bogeyed the par-five fourth after failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker before his messy finish at the ninth.

    "I was completely blocked out and tried to shape one over there and I drew no lie at all from my third shot," Woods said.

    "I was just trying to play 20 feet long, putt back and try and just get bogey.

    "I didn't even get over the bunker (with the third). Came out nowhere. Didn't really have much from there, hit a beautiful putt, just lipped out."

    Defending champion Rory McIlroy, who is seeking to turn his game around after a poor year by his standards, was among the late starters.

    Also setting off in the afternoon was the marquee group of this year's major winners - Australian Adam Scott (Masters), Englishman Justin Rose (U.S. Open) and American Phil Mickelson (British Open).

    SOURCE: Reuters


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