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A Royal Pain

SANDWICH, England -- Tiger Woods lost a ball. Ernie Els lost his form. Greg Norman lost track of time. And more than a few players may have lost their minds.
The winds have shifted at Royal St. Georges, and theyre creating quite a stir.
By the time everything settled Thursday, unheralded Hennie Otto was atop the big yellow scoreboard. He fired a 3-under 68 to take the outright lead on Day 1 ' a day of survival ' in the 132nd Open Championship.
Norman, who won the last time this venue played host, in 1993, is one shot back, as is Davis Love III, who is seeking his fourth victory of the season.
Korean S.K. Ho and Swedens Fredrik Jacobson are at 1-under. Only five players broke par in round one.
Woods is in search of his first major title in more than a year. And he didnt help his cause early on. His very first swing of the tournament resulted in a lost ball. He took triple bogey on the first hole, and made three bogeys in a row on the back nine. Still, he managed a 2-over 73, and is just five off the lead.
'I think any time you start off the way I did, to fight back and get it back to 2-over par ' it wasnt easy, said Woods, who has won four times this year. I kept myself in the tournament.
Els embarked on his journey at the same time Woods concluded his ' just when the weather conditions started to worsen. A wind speed that started in single digits grew to 20 mph by the time Els hit the course, and reached 35 mph during his round.
The defending champion, who has won five times around the world this year, failed to make a birdie. He shot 7-over 78.
I said before the tournament, if we have tough conditions on this golf course were going to have problems, said Els. Once the clouds blew over I knew we were going to have a difficult day.
His primary problem was on the greens. Els had three 3-putts over his first nine holes, and 34 putts total.
When the wind is blowing that hard, at my height (6 feet, 3 inches), it makes it difficult to stay steady, he said.
The worlds No. 2 isnt about to concede just yet, though. He opened in 79 in this years Masters and came back to finish tied for sixth.
Thats what I need, you know. I need something special. Hopefully well get a break in the weather tomorrow morning. Thats the only thing I can hope for, he said. If I can get it back to even par by the end of Sunday, we'll see.
The weather reminded many of the third round last year at Muirfield, when Els held on for a 72, while players like Woods couldnt break 80.
I think the weather conditions there were worse ' with the rain and cold. I hung in there with my short game, he said.
Other major names had major problems as well Thursday.
Five-time Open Champion Tom Watson played his final two holes in 3-over to finish at even par. Masters champion Mike Weir had a 74, as did U.S. Open winner Jim Furyk. Vijay Singh shot 75. David Toms posted 80, while 2001 Open Champion David Duval sunk to an 83.
Phil Mickelson played a 10-hole stretch that included only one par. He was at 3-under when he reached the ninth hole, but was 3-over by the time he walked off the 16th. He was forced to call a penalty on himself when his ball moved some four inches after addressing it with his putter and shot 74.
Colin Montgomerie played only seven holes before pulling out after injuring his wrist and knee during a fall at his hotel Thursday morning. Jerry Kelly withdrew when he sustained a hand injury on the 17th ' this after suffering the humiliation of an 11 at the par-4 first.
Then there was Otto.
The 27-year-old South African, who underwent back surgery two years ago, is making his Open debut. He is most known for a tantrum he threw in the 2001 South African Masters. After shooting 80 in the second round to miss the cut, he broke all of his clubs and tossed them, along with the bag, into a river.
'I'm much calmer now, to be honest,' he stated. 'My attitude has changed. I'm still a little bit edgy sometimes, but that's changed a lot.'
Tiger might have felt like doing a little damage to his driver. The 2000 British Open champion hit only three of the 14 mounded fairways. Actually, he hit more than that, but the ball wouldn't stay on the lumpy surfaces.
'I have to say the majority of the drives I hit today werent very good. And the ones I hit well didnt end up in the fairway either, so thats a little frustrating, he said.
But none of the stray shots were more damaging than the first one. Woods pushed his tee shot at the opening hole into the shin-high heather. He ' and about 25 others ' were unable to find his ball following a lengthy search, and was forced to head back to the tee box, where he again pushed a driver into the junk.
Its frustrating when the forecaddies didnt have an idea where the ball was, Woods said of his first drive. The gallery was trying to help us, trying to tell us where the ball went in, but unfortunately we couldnt find it.
Woods eventually carded a 7. He battled back to 1-over, but bogeyed 12, 13 and 14. At the par-4 12th, he tried to evacuate a pot bunker, only to have his ball catch the embankment and ricochet left. Two holes later he had more problems in the rough, when he was only able to advance his second shot some 20 yards in the heather.
The round was salvaged, however, with birdies at 15 and 16.
Woods and company were forced to adjust to different conditions than the ones they had been practicing under earlier in the week. Thursday, temperatures in the 60s were complimented with early, scattered showers. The wind, which had been blowing in a mild easterly direction, picked up steam and shifted to the prevailing southwest.
'We're hitting totally different clubs than we did in the practice rounds,' said Woods. '(On) 16 I hit sand-wedge in the practice round and today I ripped a 5-iron; 17, I hit 3-iron, wedge, and today I ripped a drive and a 4-iron.'
Such was inevitable, said players, and when it happened, course knowledge would become paramount.
Enter Norman.
Despite being a 48-year-old with an ailing back, the Aussie proved Thursday that the course is still to his liking.
He birdied the first, eagled the par-5 fourth and birdied the par-3 11th to reach 4-under. Alone in the lead at the time, the two-time Open Champion (1986) bogeyed the par-5 14th as well as the par-4 finishing hole.
'It was a very difficult day,' said Norman, who has competed in just two prior events this year due to his back problems. 'Every hole, I hit a punch shot. I don't think I hit a full shot outside of the driver.
'This 69 has got me in pretty good momentum to take me into the next 54 holes.'
Love also dropped a shot at the last to shoot 2-under 69. Love, who has only three top-10 finishes in 16 previous Open starts, arrived in the United Kingdom eight days ago and has been living off a steady diet of different golf courses.
Its like any other Open course, he said of Royal St. Georges, where he missed the cut in 1993. If you hit it in the wrong place, youre going to pay the price.
And plenty did on Day 1.
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