Woods Engulfed in Tightly Packed Leaderboard

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Twelve players are tied or within one shot of the lead through 18 holes of the National Car Rental Golf Classic and that doesnt include Tiger Woods.
 
Woods double bogeyed his 9th hole and bogeyed his 18th, but managed to shoot 3-under-par 69 Thursday to finish tied for 31st, four shots off the lead in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
 
Scott McCarron, Stewart Cink, Steve Lowery, Shaun Micheel and Len Mattiace all opened in 7-under 65.
 
McCarron led by three shots entering the final round of last weeks Invensys Classic at Las Vegas. But on Sunday, he made a triple bogey on the 4th hole and finished in a tie for fourth.
 
Ive been playing pretty good all summer and Im real confident in my game right now and played pretty well last week, McCarron said. Ive got a lot of confidence coming into this tournament.
 
Carl Paulson, David Toms, Vijay Singh, Jerry Smith, Mike Weir, Brian Wilson and Kaname Yokoo are one shot off the lead following a bunch of 66s.
 
Of the top dozen players on the leaderboard, only Mattiace, Micheel, Wilson and Yokoo played the Magnolia Course.
 
Woods, making his first start in six weeks, was 3-under through his first eight holes on the Palm Course before hooking his tee shot into the trees at the par-4 18th (his ninth hole of the day).
 
Woods took a drop, came up short of the green with his third shot and eventually carded a double bogey-6. He quickly responded, however, with a birdie at the par-5 1st.
 
Woods climbed to 4-under thanks to back-to-back birdies on Nos. 6 and 7, but again found trouble coming home.
 
Trying to avoid the water at the par-4 9th, Tiger shanked his second shot from an awkward stance. Three strokes later, he was in the hole with a bogey-5.
 
I did not hit the ball very well at all today. Obviously I am not very pleased there. But for my first tournament back in a while, to shoot a halfway decent score, its not bad, Woods said.
 
Woods was able to salvage his round and walk off the course with some semblance of a smile by playing the par-5s in 4-under.
 
All of the par-5s (at the Palm) you can reach in two (shots). Every one today I hit iron into them and birdied all of them, said Woods.
 
Paulson performed even better on the longest holes, playing them in 6-under. His back nine included a pair of eagles at the par-5 11th and 14th holes, both of which he reached on his second shots with a 4-iron.
 
The course sets up well for me, said Paulson, who shot 62 on the Palm in 1995. You have to give yourself chances on (the tougher) holes and tear the par-5s up.
 
Cink agreed.
 
You have to take advantage of them, said Cink, who played the par-5s in 3-under. Out here on the PGA Tour, the par-5s are a key for every tournament. The players that play the par-5s are the best and almost always finish in the top 2 or 3.
 
The par-5s on the Magnolia are difficult par-5s. They are within reach, but not easy.
 
You have to score on the Palm.
 
You also have to score in the morning, when the winds are down and the greens are receptive.
 
Its a nice feeling to know I shot 65 in the afternoon when its windy, said Mattiace, who led through three rounds of this event in 1997, only to shoot 74 on Sunday and tie for third. I should have the advantage, Ill take the advantage.
 
As will Micheel.
 
The 31-year-old Orlando native is currently 145th on the money list, with only two events remaining to finish inside the top-125 and secure his 2002 PGA Tour card.
 
Golf is a funny game, mused Micheel. One week you dont drive the ball well, and you putt well. Next week you dont putt well, but you drive the ball. I havent been able to putt until today. My driving and iron play and putting and chipping ' I had everything going today.
 
News, Notes and Numbers
 
*Micheel's amateur partner on Thursday was Patrick Marcune, a 22-year veteran of the NYPD. The 44-year-old Brooklyn resident has been working at Ground Zero since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and was given his spot by New York stockbroker Gene Singer, who was unable to attend the event when his wife became ill.
 
*The previous tournament record for most players tied for first place after the first round is three. In 1993, three players shared first place, while seven others were within a shot of the lead. Overall, 19 players were tied or within two shots of the lead after one round in 93 ' the same number as this year.
 
*Jack Nicklaus was in the gallery Thursday watching his son Gary, who is currently 166th on the money list. Gary shot a first-round 1-over 73 on the Palm. The elder Nicklaus won this event its first three years of existence from 1971-73.
 
*While Paulson played the Palm Courses par-5s in 6-under Thursday, his playing companion, Briny Baird, played them in 5-under. Baird shot 4-under 68.
 
*LPGA star Lorie Kane was among those in the gallery following Woods.
 
*Players alternate between the Magnolia and the Palm courses over the first two days, and then play the Magnolia exclusively over the weekend.
 
*Statistically, the Magnolia played easier than the Palm in the first round with a 70.597 scoring average, compared to that of 70.986 for the Palm.
 
Full-field scores from the NCR Classic