LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Excuse me, but haven't we seen all this before?
It doesn't seem to matter much where Tiger Woods plays his major golf championships, whether it's Pebble Peach or St. Andrews or even a grassy trampoline out here in rural Kentucky, where the PGA threw open its doors and watched Woods push his way inside first.
It's sort of monotonous the way things are going. You put on a nice little major and Woods turns it into a personal outing. Pretty soon, he's going to start collecting greens fees.
Woods' six-under-par 66 Thursday at Valhalla Golf Club could have been 60, according to playing partner Jack Nicklaus, but whatever you call it, it was good enough for a share of the first-round lead of the 82nd PGA Championship, along with 37-year-old journeyman Scott Dunlap.
You know the Tiger litany by now: Woods has won three of the last four majors and needs to win this week to join Ben Hogan as the only players to win three in one year.
And there was nothing wrong with his start at the 7,167-yard layout on a sultry, mostly still day that looked perfect for scoring. However, it was also a very long day. Eighteen players were still on the course when play was halted because of darkness.
Tom Watson needed 6 hours 15 minutes to play his round of 76.
"It wasn't quite the Bataan Death March but it was close," he said.
It has been a long time since there was something wrong with Woods in a major. In his last 11 rounds of majors, he is a combined 44 under par. Now, that could be a lot of pressure on a player, trying to go low every time out, and Woods was asked how he feels when he wakes up before a big round -- nervous, anxious, excited, what?
"Hungry," he said.
The preferred diet for Woods turned out to be birdies. He had seven of them, offset by a single bogey that occurred at the fifth hole when his second shot found a bunker and he wound up missing a 20-footer for par.
Woods used his driver only five times, birdied each of the four par-5 holes and murdered the middle stretch of Valhalla with a birdie streak from No. 7 through No. 10.
"Today, it was a good day," Woods said simply.
It was all that and more. He birdied the par-5 No. 2 when he hit a 7-iron in the left bunker, but came out to eight feet and made the putt. After his bogey at No. 5, Woods hit driver on the par-5 seventh, then a 7-iron to 30 feet, where he two-putted for a birdie. At No. 8, Woods hit a 9-iron to 12 feet and made the putt. He birdied No. 9 using a driver and pitching wedge to 12 feet. He also birdied the par-5 10th when he hit a driver off the tee, a 4-iron over the green, chipped up to three feet and made the putt.
Now four under par, Woods had two more birdies in his bag. At No. 12, he hit a 3-wood off the tee, a 6-iron behind the hole and made a 12-foot putt. He closed with a birdie at the 18th. Woods hit another 3-wood off the tee and a 7-iron into the bunker. He blasted out to three feet and made the putt.
After adding it up, Woods knows that 66 puts him closer to defending his PGA title and moving even nearer to Hogan's record. It's just that Woods isn't thinking that way.
"I am trying to win a PGA Championship and win a major," he said. "Where the chips may fall after that, let them fall.
"This week, if I accomplish my goal, which is winning a PGA Championship, I will obviously tie Hogan with three majors in a year."
Obviously. Meanwhile, Woods' challengers began pursuit.
Dunlap, who set the pace early with his 66, has four top-10 finishes in 21 tour events this year and has made $795,028. He hasn't won a tournament on the PGA Tour and has been battling a bad cold, so he didn't expect to get off to such a quick start.
"I am too tired to get excited," he said.
Not only that, but it's probably hard to get excited when you still have 54 holes to go and a guy named Woods is right there with you.
"I mean, it's Day 1," Dunlap said. "I mean, he has won the last two majors by 23 shots. I mean, if he is going to do it, he is going to do it. There is no stopping him."
(Optional add end)
Maybe, but there are many golfers still trying. Darren Clarke and Davis Love III opened with 68s and they are only two shots off the lead. Edward Fryatt, Fred Funk, Stephen Ames and J.P. Hayes are tied at 69.
Clarke tinkered with his swing on the practice range with help from Butch Harmon, who coaches both Woods and Clarke. Harmon also advised Clarke to go for birdies on the four par-five holes and aim everything for the middle of the green everywhere else and take his chances from there.
It was sound strategy. Clarke birdied all four of the par-5 holes, including the 542-yard 18th when he came out of a bunker to four feet and made the putt.
One of the few to go head to head against Woods and beat him this year, which he accomplished at the Andersen Consulting Match Play event at La Costa, Clarke said he would like to see Woods again Sunday.
"If that were the case, to give myself the chance to compete against the world's No. 1, that would be fantastic," he said. "But there is a long way to go yet."
Love eagled No. 7 and kept on track for a shot at winning his second PGA Championship. Love, who won in 1997 at Winged Foot, knew what Woods had done but wasn't thinking about him too much.
"I try not to pay any attention to what other players are doing," he said. "I just get lost in my own little world out there."
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