Lee Westwood stormed into a share of the early lead with five birdies in his last six holes at the PGA Championship this morning as four-times winner Tiger Woods struggled in the opening round.
Englishman Westwood, long regarded as one of the best players in the game who has yet to clinch a major title, fired a six-under-par 65 on a muggy day at Valhalla Golf Club to finish joint top with American journeyman Kevin Chappell.
''I played well, hit a lot fairways, putted nicely,'' former world number one Westwood told reporters after racking up a total of nine birdies, one bogey and a double.
''I gave myself a lot of chances. All in all, there were no real weaknesses out there. I hit a lot of quality iron shots, and it felt like 65 was a fair enough score for the way I played.''
Westwood rebounded from a double-bogey at the par-four first, his 10th hole of the day, with birdies at the fourth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth to end his round with a spectacular flourish.
Chappell, who missed the cut on his PGA Championship debut at Oak Hill last year, recorded three birdies on each nine as he and Westwood set the early pace in the season's fourth and final major.
Veteran American Jim Furyk and Italy's Edoardo Molinari opened with 66s in relatively calm conditions at Valhalla while Mikko Ilonen of Finland carded a 67.
Woods, who pronounced himself pain-free yesterday after suffering a back scare on Monday that left his participation at the year's final Major in some doubt, struggled on the way to a three-over 74.
Watched by huge galleries after teeing off from the 10th in a high-profile grouping with former champions Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington, Woods looked rusty as he mixed four bogeys with a lone birdie and totalled 30 putts.
''It wasn't very good,'' said Woods, who clinched the most recent of his PGA Championship titles in 2007 and has been stuck on 14 major wins since his triumph at the 2008 US Open.
''A lot of bad shots and I never got a putt to the hole. I hit all my lines. For some reason, I thought they were going to be a little bit quicker and I didn't make the adjustment well enough.
''My swing was dialled in on that (practice) range out there. Unfortunately, I didn't carry it to the golf course.''
Woods dropped his first shot of the day at the par-three 11th where he missed the green to the right, then chipped 13 feet past the cup before failing to make the par putt.
His tee shot at the par-three 14th sailed way left and again he failed to get up and down for par, but he picked up an unlikely birdie at the par-four 16th when he holed out from 34 yards in the middle of the fairway.
Out in one-over 37, Woods dropped further shots at the par-four first, following another wayward drive, and also at the par-four second, where he cursed loudly after his tee shot ended up in a water hazard to the left.He parred the last seven holes to end his round a distant nine strokes off the lead.
Fan favourite Mickelson, who clinched the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol, fought back from a poor start with three late birdies to card a 69 while Australian world number two Adam Scott opened with a 71.
''Given the first eight holes, it was a good start,'' left-hander Mickelson said after clawing his way back from two over par with a back nine of three-under 32.
''I go out tomorrow and shoot the round that I feel is coming then I'm right in position to move up the leaderboard rather than just trying to get back in position.''
British Open champion and world number one Rory McIlroy, the pre-tournament favourite who is bidding for a third consecutive victory on the PGA Tour, was among the day's late starters.
Weather forecasts predict a chance of isolated showers later today with scattered thunderstorms likely tomorrow and on Sunday.
If she is able to, when do you expect Lydia Ko to win her first major?Related story: (See story)