Levet Jobe Leads as Tiger Struggles

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2005 Buick InvitationalSAN DIEGO -- Brandt Jobe and Frenchman Thomas Levet posted matching rounds of 7-under-par 65 on Thursday to share the first-round lead of the Buick Invitational.
 
Tiger Woods, the defending champion and three-time winner of this event, struggled in his 2006 PGA Tour debut. He opened with a 1-under-par 71 on the much easier North Course at Torrey Pines and is part of a group tied for 57th place.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods had plenty to smile about before his round, but not after it.
Woods opened on the back nine Thursday and was 3-under par for the championship after a birdie at the first. He played poorly in the middle of his second nine, with three consecutive bogeys from the fourth, but the No. 1 player in the world rebounded at the end of his round.
 
The reigning Masters winner and British Open champion holed a testy par putt at the eighth, then took advantage of the North Course's par-5 ninth. He birdied the hole to end on a positive note as heads to the more difficult South Course, which will host the 2008 U.S. Open, on Friday.
 
'I was lucky to make par on eight,' admitted Woods. 'It's one of those days where I need to get a little more commitment going and hit the ball a little better.'
 
Woods was not the only three-time champion to miss the mark on Thursday.
 
Phil Mickelson, who won last year's PGA Championship, also shot a 71 in the first round, but his came at the South Course, which hosts the final two rounds.
 
Stuart Appleby, who captured the season-opening Mercedes Championships, carded a 6-under-par 66 which included a hole-out for eagle on the par-4 8th hole. He is tied for third place with Ryuji Imada, Craig Barlow, Kent Jones, Charley Hoffman, Nick Watney, Jerry Kelly, Brett Quigley and Skip Kendall.
 
All of the players in the top-11 played on the North Course Thursday.
 
Jobe, who tallied a pair of runner-up finishes in 2005, flew out of the gate in round one. He missed the green with his second at the par-5 first, but chipped to 15 feet and converted the birdie try. Jobe made it back-to-back birdies with a 18-footer at No. 2, then recorded his third in a row with a 15- footer at the third.
 
He knocked a nine-iron to 15 feet to set up birdie at the seventh. Jobe hit a lob-wedge into the par-5 ninth green, but the ball spun back to 35 feet. No matter to Jobe, as he rolled in the long birdie putt to go out in 31.
 
Jobe parred his first four holes on the back nine, but hit a spectacular second shot at the par-5 14th. His two-iron stopped 10 feet from the hole, but Jobe missed the eagle try and tapped in for birdie. Jobe reached 7-under par when his 60-foot birdie putt at No. 15 fell into the cup.
 
The 39th-ranked player in the world squandered a birdie chance at the par-5 closing hole. Jobe had 40 feet for eagle, but that putt never stood a chance. He missed a three-footer that could have given him the outright lead, but the 40-year-old is happy with where he is.
 
'It wasn't really a great ball-striking round, but I made a lot of putts today,' said Jobe. 'Today I don't really think has a bearing on anything. You kind of have one course that's a little easier and then one you try and survive on. I enjoy it here.'
 
Levet, who helped Europe win the Ryder Cup in 2004, began his first round on the back nine at Torrey Pines. He ran home a 12-footer for birdie at the 10th, then parred his next two.
 
At the 13th, Levet recorded his second birdie, then picked up No. 3 when he two-putted from 18 feet at the par-5 14th. The Frenchman hit a bad 6-iron 35 feet short of the stick at the 17th, but drained the long birdie try. He finished out his front nine when he got up and down from a bunker for a birdie at 18.
 
On the second nine, Levet wasted little time in getting into red figures. He chipped his second at the par-4 second to inches and kicked in the short birdie putt.
 
He parred his next six holes, but joined Jobe in first at the ninth. Levet missed the fairway off the tee at the par-5 hole, then his second finished left of the putting surface. He chipped to eight feet and sank the birdie putt for his share of the lead.
 
'I played solid from the start and didn't miss too many shots,' said Levet. 'I just spent my time being a yard or two in the rough. But that course, you can hit it on the green from there, and I putted solid all day long.'
 
Jesper Parnevik shot the lowest round at the South Course on Thursday with a 5-under 67. He is tied for 12th place with several other players, including Kevin Stadler and Joey Sindelar.
 
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