International Mix at NEC Invitational

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SAMMAMISH, Wash. ' Retief Goosen didnt let the ill-effects of a weekend wreck in last weeks PGA Championship linger Thursday at Sahalee.
 
The serene South African steered clear of the vertigo-inducing fir trees in shooting a bogey-free 6-under-par 65.
 
He shares the opening-round lead in the World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational with Japans Toshi Izawa. The 65 matched the course record aggregate score. However, it was a record in relation to par, as Greg Kraft and Nick Price shot 65s in the '98 PGA Championship when the course played to a par-70.
 
World No. 2 Phil Mickelson, who has finished inside the top-10 all three years of this event, is tied with Ryder Cup teammate Davis Love III and Cup opponent Darren Clarke at 5-under.
 
Clarke said he inspired by watching Rich Beem win last week's PGA.
 
'I had a good think after the PGA. I saw the way Rich Beem won his first major. I hit my driver nearly everywhere today. It's much more fun that way,' said Clarke, who added he has a throbbing left big toe after dropping a suitcase on his foot when packing to leave Minnesota.
 
'The strongest part of my game is driving, or has been in the past. I have tended to throttle, but now I have decided to go for it again.'
 
Three-time defending champion Tiger Woods was just two off the pace before finishing at 3-under-par 68. Woods double bogeyed the par-3 17th after plunking his tee shot in the water right of the green. But after missing the fairway and finding the greenside bunker on the par-5 18th, Tiger made a 12-footer for birdie to salvage the round.
 
It was nice to end up on a birdie like that; I felt like I played well all day and I just threw away three shots on the back nine ' three-putted (the 12th) and hit a ball in the water, Woods said.
 
Izawa was in the first group out Thursday at Sahalee Country Club, which last hosted the '98 PGA. The 34-year-old, ranked 36th in the world, made seven birdies and one bogey.
 
I havent played well this year in the States and in Japan, so the first day of the tournament, where I am, I am very satisfied and I am very happy to be here, said Izawa, who lost in a six-man playoff in the 2001 Nissan Open and tied for fourth in his Masters debut the same year, through a translator.
 
Opposite of Izawa, Goosen has had his share of fortune this season. He won the BellSouth Classic and finished runner-up at Augusta. But his major showings have been more thorns than roses.
 
The 2001 U.S. Open champion was tied with Woods going into the final round of the Masters, where he shot 74 and lost by three. He then missed the cut in his title defense at the U.S. Open. After a tie for eighth at Muirfield, he shot 79-75 over the final two rounds at the PGA Championship to fall from a share of the 36-hole lead into a tie for 23rd.
 
I think pretty much to win a tournament (you have to) putt the best, Goosen said. I have been playing well, but over the last few months, I dont really feel like Ive been putting as well. Ive worked quite hard on my putting the last couple of days.
 
The dedication paid Thursday on a sun-soaked day outside of Seattle.
 
Goosen made a 10-footer for birdie at the 10th ' his first hole of the day. He then made 20-foot birdies on each of the par-3s on the back, 13 and 17.
 
At the par-5 second, he hit a 4-iron to 10 feet and converted the eagle effort, and ended his day with a seven-footer for birdie at 7.
 
Love was also the beneficiary of a solid putting stroke in round one.
 
Love made a 20-footer at the third; a 40-footer at the seventh; a 30-footer at 10; and another one from 30 feet at 13.
 
I hit a lot of shots in the right place where I could putt at it, and I putted very, very well, Love said.
 
Mickelson had one of his steadiest rounds of the season, while Clarke posted a scorecard with which the lefthander is all too familiar.
 
Mickelson made four birdies, one eagle and a bogey Thursday; Clarke, attacking the narrow tree-lined fairways with his driver, birdied his first four holes, made three bogeys and two birdies in a six-hole stretch midway through the round, and closed with back-to-back birdies.
 
For Mickelson, Thursday was a continuation of a final-round 68 at Hazeltine.
 
'I have been striking it really well from Sunday in the PGA, and then practice rounds I started hitting the ball pretty well, and came out in the round continuing that,' he said.
 
As Mickelson did, Tiger eagled the second. He bombed a 3-iron from 235 yards to four feet. He birdied Nos. 7 and 10, but three-putted the aforementioned 12th for bogey.
 
Following another birdie at the par-4 14th, Tiger hit a 6-iron from 206 yards on the par-3 17th. The ball landed short and right of the green, rolled down the embankment and into the water hazard. He regrouped with the birdie at the last.
 
I wasnt exactly in the best frame of mind ' still am not ' but hit a good drive on the tee (at 18), just turned it a bit too much; hit a nice 3-iron out into the right bunker and hit a terrible bunker shot, but I recovered and hit a nice putt there, Woods described.
 
Full-field scores from the WGC-NEC Invitational