Mickelson, Woods all-square

2006-08-18 07:57

Chicago - The world's two top golfers proved to be an even match on Thursday as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson battled hole-for-hole while paired together in the opening round of the 88th PGA Championship.

Woods and Mickelson each fired three-under 69 at the 7 561-yard Medinah Country Club course, the longest in major history.

Former Ryder Cup star Chris Riley and world No. 51 Lucas Glover shared the first-round lead on six-under 66 as a tournament record 61 players shot under par.

There were just 27 players under par on opening day in 2005.

"Sixty-nines. We are here to post a number," said Woods, who started slow with a bogey but then fired off three birdies over the next five holes.

"I was behind the eight ball early, but we all missed a few shots, got up and down and grinded our way around the golf course."

Reigning British Open champion Woods and Mickelson, who captured the 2006 Masters, have combined to win six of the last 11 majors. The PGA Championship continues with the traditional of pairing the first three major winners of the year in the first two rounds.

US Open winner Geoff Ogilvy completed the dynamic trio as he is also seeking to make it a two-major season. Ogilvy also shot a 69 on Thursday.

"I got the best seat in the house, so it was fun," Ogilvy said of the group. "There were a few 'Go Phils' and 'Go Tigers'. One 'Go Joe'. I felt at home with that."

Starting on the 10th tee, Mickelson opened with two consecutive birdies but then had to scramble on the back nine to make par after approach shots on the 12th and 13th holes came up short.

"The last few days I felt like I practiced better than I played today," Mickelson said.

Glover and Riley and the rest on the leaderboard took advantage of perfect conditions, some easy pin placements and soft greens that resulted in lower than expected scores on Thursday.

The 26-year-old Glover has registered six top 10 finishes this year.

This marks just the second time in his career that Riley has held the first round lead in a tour event. He birdied all of Medinah's par-fives.

"Usually I struggle on those because length isn't my strong point," Riley said. "That is usually where I get beat on the par fives and today I made four birdies on them."

Two years ago, Riley earned a spot on the Ryder Cup team after finishing tied for fourth at the 2004 PGA Championship.

He seems to find his comfort zone this time of the season.

Billy Andrade was their nearest rival at five-under 67. England's Luke Donald, Australian Robert Allenby, Swede Henrik Stenson and American's Stewart Cink, Davis Love and JJ Henry comprise a group of six at four-under 68.

Woods, Mickelson, and Ogilvy were in a pack of 11 tied for 10th place.

Woods and Mickelson do not enjoy a close relationship and failed to hit it off when paired together for the United States in the Ryder Cup.

They were cordial to each other and even seen sharing a joke during one moment of Thursday's round. But Mickelson doesn't expect to be chatting away with Woods in Friday's second round.

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