U.S. Open

Tiger Woods begins his hunt at Pebble Beach

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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Tiger Woods' pumped his fist once his putt dropped. The crowd roared its approval. Then he marched to the next tee box as his playing partners cleaned up their putts.

Classic U.S. Open form by Woods at this sacred venue, right?

Not exactly. His highlight Thursday resulted in a mere yet unexpected par on the 14th hole, and it typified how Woods' opening-round focus was to minimize mistakes.

That 30-foot, par-saving putt atop the 14th hole also kept alive Woods' streak in which he made par on all his final 11 holes for a 1-under 70.

"I just hung in there with pars," Woods said. "I'm very pleased to shoot under par today."

Inviting conditions — overcast skies, temperatures in the low 60s, light breeze, clean greens — allowed 27 others to also finish under par.

Justin Rose, one of Woods' playing partners, snapped out of his own par parade (seven straight holes) to finish with three consecutive birdies and shoot a 65. That gave Rose that outright lead and matched Woods' grand entrance in 2000 for the lowest first-round score in six U.S. Opens held here.

Rose, Woods and Jordan Spieth will rise early to reunite for Friday's round, starting at the No. 10 tee at 8:24 a.m.

"It's a quick turnaround," Woods said. "We have the harder side to start off on, and hopefully I can finish strong on the front side and have the (first) seven holes where I can get it going."

He got his major-championship form back two months ago at The Masters, so Woods predictably attracted the largest galleries.

Fans egged him on to hit sensational shots as if this was 19 years ago, when he won by a record 15 strokes for the first of his three U.S. Open titles.

Thursday was all about satisfactory results, not sensational ones. His irons were not as "crisp" as he wanted, and, as a result, his approach shots hit only half the greens.
So how did he still finish under par?

"Because I missed the ball in correct spots," Woods said. "I made a couple putts, but the majority were uphill.

"That's the key to playing this golf course. You can't be past the flag," Woods added. "If I happened to miss, I took my medicine, moved on and went about my business."

Woods nearly chipped in several times, nearly holed a couple bunker shots. He teased the crowd and prime-time viewers enough to merit more curiosity going forth.

"It's just hanging in there, a typical U.S. Open," Woods, 43, said as he plays his 21st U.S. Open. "The first seven holes (at Pebble), you can get it going."

His only birdies came in that stretch, on Nos. 4, 6 and 7, and they helped take the sting off a double bogey on the par-3 fifth hole in which he hooked an uncomfortable 6-iron off the tee.

As for the other holes?

"Some of these pins were a little bit on the tricky side," Woods said. "They were hard to get back there and close to. Rosie proved it today, hanging in there and fighting it off.

"He had an amazing finish and I was in position to do the same, hanging in and posting under par."

Woods and Rose tied as Thursday's fourth-best scramblers for par, doing so on 8 of 9 holes. And Woods' putter kept himself in red numbers (albeit 1-under par) by making all 11 putts inside 5 feet and 4 of 5 inside 10 feet.

When Woods made a par-saving putt on hole No. 2, it was more than enough to appease a green-side fan, who said aloud: "That was worth an-hour-and-a-half standing here."

As for Woods' par-save on 14, his bomber putt came after his approach found the front bunker, and his ensuing sand shot sailed over the green.

"The only mistake I made was probably at 14 trying to carry that ball back there to the flag, and I clipped it and dumped my ball in the center of the green," Woods said. "I tried to make my bogey but happened to make a putt."

And make par.

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