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Motivated Tiger in Hunt Again

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Tiger Woods doesn't have to worry about keeping his PGA Tour card. He doesn't have to fret about qualifying for the Tour Championship. But that doesn't mean Woods is without motivation at this week's National Car Rental Classic at Walt Disney World.
 
Last year, Tiger won the season's final three tournaments, beginning with the NCR Classic. He wants to do it again in 2000 - and he's off to a great start.
 
Tiger fired a 9-under-par 63 at the Palm Course in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., to tie Steve Flesch for the first-round lead. Mike Springer and Bill Glasson are tied for third, one shot off the pace after opening in 8-under-par 64.
 
Tiger's day began with five straight birdies, beginning at the par-4 10th. Four pars ensued to close out his first nine holes, but the world's No. 1 player caught fire again, birdying three of his first four holes upon making the turn. Woods added his ninth birdie of the day at the par-5 7th, his 16th, and then parred in for a bogey-free 63.
 
'I really feel like my game is coming back to where I left it five, six weeks ago,' said Woods. 'The hard part out there is trusting. You do it on the range. It is hard to go out there and trust it. I stay committed to it and trusted it, and I hit the ball solid.
 
Tiger's 63 marked his 36th consecutive round at par or better on the PGA Tour, adding to his Tour record. A win this week would not only jump-start his run at three-in-a-row to close the season, it would also be his fourth straight win in as many starts.
 
'I told (my caddie) once I birdied the first five (holes), I felt like it was a double-digit day,' Woods said. 'That is what I tried to get to, and it didn't work out.'
 
While Woods vies for his 10th victory of the season, Flesch searches for title No. 1. In his third year on Tour, Flesch has never had a problem maintaining his card. However, he has yet to find the winner's circle.
 
Flesch has a couple of runner-up finishes in his brief Tour career. In his rookie campaign, Flesch finished 35th on the money list. Last year, he finished 75th. This year, Flesch is in 20th place - guaranteed a spot in next week's $5-million Tour Championship - but still without a title to his credit.
 
Thursday at the Palm Course, Flesch birdied six of his first seven holes, before bogeying the par-3 8th. The left-hander carded four more birdies before the day was done to shoot his career-low round on the PGA Tour.
 
'I have my family down here with us and some friends,' said the 1998 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year. 'I came down here this week, obviously to play good golf, but more than anything, it was a good time (to get) away from the golf course and relax a bit. I pushed myself pretty hard this year and wore myself out so I'm looking forward to a nice relaxing week. Maybe that's why I played well today.'
 
While Flesch has the luxury of relaxing this week, the same can't be said for many others. One of those is Springer. Springer, currently 171st on the money list, birdied five consecutive holes on the Magnolia course, the home course for this tournament, en route to his 64.
 
There is a seven-way tie for fifth place. Bob May, Carlos Franco, Brandel Chamblee, Brandt Jobe, Brian Henninger, Duffy Waldorf and Skip Kendall all opened in 7-under-par 65.
 
May and Franco are trying to stay inside the top 30 on the money list, and earn a spot into the Tour Championship. Franco and May are 28th and 29th, respectively, in earnings.
 
Jobe also has one eye on the money list, but for a different reason. Jobe is currently 130th on the money list. The top 125 following next week's Southern Farm Bureau Classic earn their 2001 PGA Tour playing privileges.