Tiger answers Kim's record challenge to open PGA National
Tiger Woods fired his lowest round in nearly two years, a sizzling six-under par 64, to answer a course-record 62 from defending champion Anthony Kim on Thursday at the PGA National.other Updated: Jul 03, 2009 16:21 IST
Tiger Woods fired his lowest round in nearly two years, a sizzling six-under par 64, to answer a course-record 62 from defending champion Anthony Kim on Thursday at the PGA National.
Korean-American standout Kim seized the early clubhouse lead at the six million-dollar tournament hosted by tournament host Woods, who responded with his best round since the 2007 PGA Tour Championship some 22 months ago.
"It was nice to get back inside the ropes and try to catch AK," Woods said. "You don't want to shoot yourself in the foot the first day."
Two weeks past his 24th birthday, Kim fired eight birdies, six in his last nine holes, on a record run that began on the 10th tee at rain-softened 7,255-yard Congressional Country Club.
"I got off to a great start. I hit quality golf shots and made putts from 10 to 15 feet," Kim said. "I'd like to say it was just me playing fantastic golf, but I got a couple good breaks along the way and drove it pretty well overall."
Woods opened with back-to-back birdies and added two more on the par-three seventh and par-five ninth. After taking his lone bogey at the 11th, Woods responded with birdies on three of the next five holes, the last of them on the par-five 16th after putting his approach into the left rough.
"I put a lot of putts on line and some of them went in," Woods said. "The greens were soft. The course could be had."
The 14-time major champion, chasing Kim's record, dropped his approach 12 feet from the cup on 17 but slid his birdie putt two feet past the hole and left a 25-foot birdie bid inches short at the 18th.
Woods, who shared second with fellow Americans D.A. Points and Bryce Molder, began his round just as Kim finished his record round, knowing he had thrown down a challenge to his idol.
"I did play very well, but that man can go out there and shoot 60," Kim said. "I'm not really worried about what he's doing.
"All I can do is focus on myself. That was the difference. I focused on the shot I was hitting at the time and not the next shot."
The former 18-hole event and course record was a 63 fired last year by American Tom Pernice and Australian Peter Lonard. The low prior first-round score was a 65 shot last year by home-area hero Steve Marino.
"I hope it's unique for my sake but the golf course is very soft," Kim said. "As the course firms up, this golf course is going to start to show its teeth."
Woods has won twice since returning from knee surgery in February, taking events hosted by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus that were both two weeks before majors, just as this event is two weeks before the British Open.
Kim has not won since taking last year's National. He was hampered by shoulder and ankle injuries and a thumb sprain that only recently healed.
"It's still hard. Just because I shot 62 doesn't take away that bitter taste in my mouth when I'm not contending for tournaments," Kim said.
"I'm finally getting to that point where I feel like I'm going to be able to win every time I tee it up. It's not going to take anything crazy. It's just going to take solid golf."
Kim defied doctors' advice and played with the injured thumb, having to regrip his club on his backswing until recently being able to return to his normal swing. He considered the rewards worth the risk of greater injury.
"I wasn't going to sit," Kim said. "It was definitely an observation a couple doctors made that I should just rest it for four to six weeks and not play. But I didn't want to do that. I'm out here to get better.
"I'm sure those doctors are a lot smarter than I am. But pros play through pain and play through injuries. There was no doubt in my mind I was going to come out here, learn something along the way and keep grinding away."
Australian Steve Elkington birdied three of the last six holes to fire a bogey-free 65 to stand fifth with the round nearly complete.
Sweden's Daniel Chopra was on 66 with US veteran Jim Furyk and Aussie Stuart Appleby.