Tiger Woods just off pace after red-hot finish

JOHN PYE
Last updated 23:52 25/10/2012
Tiger Woods
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HITTING THE MARK: Tiger Woods fired five birdies on the back nine to be well in contention after one round of the CIMB Classic.

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Tiger Woods birdied five holes on the back nine in his first trip back to Malaysia since winning the 1999 World Cup to end the day three strokes behind first-round leader Troy Matteson at the CIMB Classic on Thursday.

Matteson made eight birdies in a bogey-free 8-under-par 63 for a one-stroke lead over fellow Americans Jeff Overton, Brian Harman and Robert Garrigus.

New Zealand's Michael Campbell, who has been in good form in recent weeks, shot a one-under par 71 to be in a tie for 39th place. 

Woods was two-under early but slipped to even par after nine holes after lipping out par putts on the eighth and ninth.

The 14-time major winner started his comeback with a birdie putt over an incline from 20 feet on the 10th, the first of his five birdies on the back nine as he finished with a 66 on the par-71, 6,197-yard Mines Resort and Golf Club course.

With the temperature hitting 34 Celsius (93F) and with high humidity, Woods appeared frustrated at times as he narrowly missed putts for birdies - including one from 10 feet on the 18th as storm clouds swirled overhead - on top of the two short putts he missed for par. But he didn't blame the conditions.

"What is frustrating is turning at even par and I'm eight back," he said. "I feel like I just got run over there. Wind is picking up a bit and it's going to get more difficult.

"Three or four under par was my number on the back nine - if I could shoot that, I'm still right in the ballgame. I happened to get one more, which was a bonus."

Woods knew he could have shot a score that would have put him higher than tied for seventh, but he was generally happy with his game.

"I really started hitting the ball quite well at the end of the front nine. I happened to miss two short putts," he said.

"Realistically it could have been seven or eight (under). But even at the turn, and still post five (under), it was a nice little comeback.

"It's going to take 20-plus this week to win the tournament, so I've got to be aggressive and we've got to go get it."

Matteson had birdies on Nos. 2, 3, 6 and 11 and finished with four straight, closing his round by holing his third shot from the greenside bunker on the par-4 18th.

"The pin is really tricky on 18. I knew I'd be doing good if I could leave myself seven or eight feet for par, and it bounced and slam-dunked in the hole," Matteson said. "That's the first time all year the ball has managed to hit the pin and stay in the hole."

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Matteson placed second at the John Deere Classic in July and had three top-10 finishes on the US PGA Tour in 2012 but is yet to win a title. The co-sanctioned $6.1 million CIMB Classic doesn't count for points on the tour this year, but will be added to the schedule in 2013, making it a good title to win.

Defending CIMB champion Bo Van Pelt, 1 under after an opening 70, was coming off a win last week at the Perth International, which was jointly sanctioned by the European and Australasian tours. Jason Dufner, who was second to Van Pelt last week, was 3 under and in a share of 16th.

- AP

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