OMeara and Couples ' playing side-by-side, nonetheless ' each fired 6-under-par 66s at the Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The tandem stands two shots clear of tournament host Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh and Scott Verplank.
Woods - sans goatee - birdied six of his first 12 holes, but struggled throughout his round, pulling many of his tee and approach shots. Still, the worlds No. 1 ranked player managed to get it around in 4-under 68.
I felt like I putted pretty well ' my short game was half-way decent. I didnt shoot myself out of the tournament, Woods said before heading to the practice range.
Woods played the first round alongside defending champion Davis Love III, who scrambled for a 1-under-par 71.
Eighteen competitors are vying for the $1 million first-place prize. The field consists of last year's winner, the top 12 available players from the Official World Golf Ranking (as of Oct. 8, 2001), and five special exemptions ' which includes Thursdays Top Two.
'It was nice of (Tiger) to invite me,' O'Meara said. 'He probably wouldn't have done it if I didn't get him a Christmas present.'
The only thing that differed between the two leaders in the first round was the manner in which they scored. OMeara, No. 153 in the world, made the turn in 4-under 32 and managed to climb to 7-under for the tournament, before bogeying the par-3 17th.
Couples, on the other hand, birdied six of his final 10 holes. However, it was a par save at the last that was most impressive. After leaving his third shot on the par-4 18th at the bottom of a two-tiered green, Couples rolled his par effort 30 feet up the slope and into the hole.
That doesnt happen very often, it was fun, said Couples, ranked 100th in the world.
Added OMeara, We just carried each other today.
Though not an official PGA Tour event, OMeara and Couples would like to use this tournament as a springboard to victory in the upcoming season ' something Love did a year ago and Tom Lehman accomplished in 1999.
Both Love and Lehman won the Williams World Challenge, and then ended lengthy winless droughts on tour only a month later.
Singh is also hoping a strong performance this week will lead to his first PGA Tour title since the 2000 Masters. He parred his first 10 holes Thursday, before birdieing four of his final eight.
Full-field scores from the Williams World Challenge