- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
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KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- For the first time in three years, Tiger Woods shot in the 60s at the PGA Championship, a major he has won four times. That's the good news, as it put the world's No. 2-ranked golfer in the mix of those in contention during the first round of the year's fourth and final major.
The bad news is that despite the good score, there were enough flaws in Woods' game to necessitate an afternoon practice session, despite the searing heat at the Ocean Course.
Woods shot 3-under-par 69 to trail leader Carl Pettersson by three strokes.
"I'm going to do a little bit of work on the range, clean a few things up," said Woods, who met with his instructor, Sean Foley, after the round. "I know what to do and just need to do it."
After struggling on the greens last week at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he tied for eighth after going 68-66 on the weekend, Woods needed just 22 putts Thursday, and that putting performance helped save his round.
He hit just 10 of 18 greens in regulation and had 12 one-putt greens. Woods made six birdies and three bogeys and had a nice par-save at his last hole, the par-4 ninth, where he got up and down from a difficult lie near the green.
"The shot itself was nasty, as in nasty good," Woods said.
His 69 was his first sub-70 score in the championship since he opened the 2009 PGA with a 67. He led that event through three rounds but failed to convert a 54-hole lead in a major for the first time in 15 tries, falling to Y.E. Yang and finishing second.
Woods did not fare as well in a major again until last month's Open Championship, in which he tied for third.
Starting on the back nine at Kiawah on Thursday morning in calm but warm conditions, Woods quickly found himself trailing one of his playing competitors, defending champion Keegan Bradley, who opened birdie-eagle. Bradley, who won the Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday, shot 68.
"I'm playing with Keegan and he's 3 under through two, and you look up on the board, some guy's 4 under through six; a bunch of guys 3 under through five; a couple of them were 3 under through three," Woods said.
"So it's one of those days where it looks like everyone's going to shoot 6-, 7-, 8-under par, but the wind kicked up a little bit and it changed things quite a bit. If it had stayed pretty benign, I'm sure you would have had to have probably shot 5-under par to be in the top 10.
"But things have changed. The wind has kicked up, and it's actually changed directions, too. When it first kicked up, it was off the land and now it's off the ocean. Much different golf course now."
Woods, who has won three times this year on the PGA Tour and leads the FedEx Cup standings, is trying to win his first major title since capturing his 14th at the 2008 PGA Championship.
After playing poorly at the Masters, Woods has gotten off to a good start at the U.S. Open, Open Championship and now the PGA Championship. At each tournament, he has started in the 60s. He was the 36-hole co-leader at the U.S. Open, in which he tied for 21st.
"I played well today and anything in the 60s is going to be a good start in a major championship, and I'm right there," he said.
For the first time in three years, Tiger Woods shot in the 60s at the PGA Championship, leaving him in the mix of those in contention during the first round of the year's fourth and final major.