As Expected North Course Produces Leaders

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Tiger Woods did what he needed to do Thursday at the Buick Invitational, Phil Mickelson did not.
 
Woods shot 6-under-par 66 on the easier North Course to place him two shots off the lead in the first round in La Jolla, Calif. Meanwhile, two-time defending champion Mickelson put himself in a huge divot by shooting 1-over 73 at the North.
 
It wasnt a good round, I dont know what else to say, said a disappointed Mickelson. To shoot 73 on the North Course puts me pretty far behind. I have my work cut out for me.
 
The reason Mickelson finds himself behind the 8-ball so early in the tournament is because players only get one chance at the 6,874-yard North Course. By contrast, each player will play the South Course ' measuring 7,568 yards ' three times.
 
Twenty-one of the top 24 players on the leaderboard played the North Course Thursday. Mark OMeara, who shot 5-under 67, Lee Porter (68) and Jay Haas (68) were the exceptions.
 
To shoot a low score on this side is a lot of fun, said OMeara, who is winless on tour since the 1998 British Open. It doesnt shock me to go out and shoot 67 on the South Course because there wasnt very much wind and I hit a lot of good shots.
 
Theres no advantage hereI still have to go out on the North Course and shoot a good number.
 
Thats exactly what Mathew Goggin did on Day 1. The 27-year-old Australian fired an 8-under 64 at the South. Englishman Luke Donald and Jay Williamson are close behind following a pair of 65s.
 
Woods got his chance on the lesser layout Thursday, recording six birdies and no bogeys.
 
Woods, who has four top-5s in four career Buick Invitational starts, began his day on the back nine. He first got on the board with a 15-foot birdie putt at the par-4 13th. He next drained a 12-footer for birdie on the par-4 15th.
 
Tiger birdied both the par-5 18th and the par-5 first by sticking his second shots to 20 feet and two-putting for birdie. He then made it three birdies in a row with a 10-foot putt at the par-4 second.
 
Though he completed his scoring with another 10-foot birdie at the par-4 fourth, Woods had a bit of adventure on the par-5 ninth.
 
Tiger blew his tee shot out to the right. With a tree impeding his progress, he chose to try and play his second shot into the adjacent fourth-hole fairway, rather than pitching out sideways and leaving himself with a long-iron approach.
 
Woods knocked out into the right rough on the fourth hole, 176 yards from the flag. He eventually made par.
 
I havent really gotten off to the best of starts of late, said the 1999 champion. I didnt hit the ball all that great today, but I hit a lot of beautiful putts.
 
Not all of those putts went in, however.
 
I lipped out about six birdie putts today, said Woods. It could have been a really low number.
 
Woods is seeking his first PGA Tour victory since the WGC-NEC Invitational in August ' six starts ago. He now gets the South Course, which was recently renovated to counteract todays heavy hitters ' i.e., Tiger Woods.
 
The South Course, you need to hit good shots, you just need to hit the ball in the fairway, Woods said. The greens are so much more firm on the South Course that you need to spin the ball on these greens. The greens are good enough. You need to control (the ball). From there, at least the greens are smooth and you can make a few putts.
 
Putting was a surprising adversary for Donald Thursday. The 1999 NCAA champion at Northwestern University made eight birdies ' including five in a six-hole stretch ' to just one bogey in the first round.
 
His run started by sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-4 13th.
 
That really got my round going, Donald said. Its been a while since I saw a putt drop in from that distance.
 
Donald, 24, is one of the overlooked members of the tours youth movement. Hes a rookie on tour ' having qualified via Q-School ' but hes very comfortable with his standing among todays young players, such as Charles Howell III.
 
I played against Charles for three years in college, Donald said. I had a pretty good record against him, so, if he can do well (on tour), why cant I?
 
Like Donald, Goggin fired his career best round on tour Thursday. He wouldnt have made it into the tournament had it not been for a tie for eighth last week at Pebble Beach.
 
This is the first time in 68 career starts that Goggin has led a PGA Tour event.
 
Its like leading the first round of the Tour de France on the flat, easy stuff, Goggin said. We have three days of the high mountains to go.
 
Throw out all the clichs you want. Its just the first round.
 
Full-field scores from the Buick Invitational