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Wednesday, April 16, 2014         

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Furyk, Scott top PGA scoreboard in ripe conditions

By Paul Newberry

AP National Writer

POSTED:


PITTSFORD, N.Y. >> Tiger Woods made a mess of his final hole at the PGA Championship, hardly looking as though he's poised to break the longest major drought of his career.

Jim Furyk feels as if his game is finally coming together again.

Even with a bogey on the final hole, Furyk seized the clubhouse lead with a 5-under 65 Thursday before storms halted the opening round at defenseless Oak Hill for more than an hour.

"You're usually disappointed to end the day with a bogey," the 43-year-old American said. "But a 65 at the PGA, that's not so bad."

Furyk rolled in a 40-foot birdie putt at the 16th — his seventh hole of the round after starting on the back side — and pushed his score to 6 under until that stumble at the ninth left him with his lone bogey. He shook his head after missing a 25-footer to save par, but couldn't complain much about the way he played on a course that was ripe for the taking, having already been softened by overnight rain.

Canadian David Hearn was one stroke back after starting with a 66. Four players, including Matt Kuchar, were at 67. Another 15 players had scores in the 60s, with more sure to come in prime scoring conditions.

Masters champion Adam Scott, for instance, put together five straight birdies on the front side for a 5-under 30, joining Furyk atop the leaderboard before even making the turn. Japan's Kohki Idoki, the Senior PGA Championship winner, and Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez had runs of four straight birdies, the course playing more like a regular tour event than a major championship.

But the afternoon starters had to deal with an unexpected break. With thunder rumbling nearby and a line of storms bearing down on Oak Hill, the round was suspended for 71 minutes. The players hustled to the clubhouse, just ahead of heavy rain.

Woods opened with a disappointing 71, finishing with a double bogey.

"The round, realistically, could've been under par easily," said Woods, who came in with five tour victories this season, including a seven-shot runaway last week at the Bridgestone.

He got off to a good start in his bid to break an 0-for-17 slump in the majors, making the turn with a 33. But Woods bogeyed the par-5 fourth, normally one of the easier holes, and wound up above par after plopping his approach into thick rough short of the green at No. 9. He took a whack at the ball — and sent it right into a bunker, up against the lip. He was able to get the club on it, landing about 12 feet below the flag. The putt, however, caught the left side of the cup and spun out.

Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion, hasn't won since the Tour Championship three years ago, though he's had plenty of solid efforts. But he fell into a bit of a slump this summer, missing the cut at both the U.S. Open and the British Open, struggling with his driver and the putter.

"I did not feel confident with my putter and that was putting a lot of pressure on the rest of my game," Furyk said.

He showed signs of turning things around the last two weeks, finishing ninth at the Canadian Open and the Bridgestone.

"I'm feeling very comfortable with what I'm doing with the driver," Furyk said. "And this was one of my best putting rounds, if not the best putting round, I've had this year."

None of his putts was better than the one at No. 16. Then, at the 18th, he knocked a 4-iron within a foot of the cup for a tap-in par. When Furyk wasn't making birdies, he was saving par with a bunch of testy little putts on Oak Hill's postage stamp greens.

Only at the ninth did Furyk score finally go up. He drove it in the right rough and had to chip out, ruining his bogey-free round.

Playing not far from home, Hearn opened and closed his round with bogeys. In between, he ripped off six birdies under skies that were mostly sunny for those who played early.

The 34-year-old grew up five blocks from Wayne Gretzky's house in Brantford, Ontario — about 140 miles west of this venerable course just outside Rochester. He has never won on the PGA Tour but he came close just before the British Open, losing to Jordan Spieth in a playoff at the John Deere Classic. .

"That was a great experience for me," Hearn said. "I'm proud of the way I played. It just didn't go my way at the finish."

He is playing in a major championship for just the fourth time in his career. Hearn has qualified for three U.S. Opens, his best showing a tie for 21st at Merion this year.

Also at 67 were England's Paul Casey, Australia's Marcus Fraser and Robert Garrigus.

Scott was playing with this year's other two major winners. Justin Rose (U.S. Open) was at 3 under through 10 holes, but Phil Mickelson (British Open) was struggling at 2 over after taking a double-bogey at the fourth.

Defending PGA champion Rory McIlroy, mired in a slump this season, was 3 under at the turn but dropped back with two straight bogeys right before play was halted.






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