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Woods opens defense with 65

9/7/2001

MONTREAL -- Even though Royal Montreal is the only course
where Tiger Woods missed a cut in his PGA Tour career, revenge
never crossed his mind.

It only looked that way Thursday.

Woods capped off a nearly flawless round with a 5-iron into 6 feet on the 18th hole for birdie and a 5-under 65, matching the course record and tying for the lead with Jim McGovern, Matt Gogel and rookie Michael Muehr.

"It wasn't on my mind what happened in '97 because I knew if I
started thinking that way, then I don't think I could put the
attention I needed on each and every shot," Woods said. "And the
way this golf course is playing, you need to be focused on what
you're doing."

A lot has changed since the Canadian Open was last played at
Royal Montreal. The fairways are a little wider, the rough not so
deep, the weather gorgeous on Ile Bizard, the suburban island west of Montreal.

Woods isn't the same, either.

The guy who struggled to keep the ball in play at the 1997 Canadian Open hit only two wayward drives, and neither cost him a bogey. He made an eagle from 10 feet and gave himself 11 birdie chances inside 20 feet.

There was potential for trouble when Woods' drive on No. 11
landed in the rough, but he escaped with a piercing 3-iron that
squeezed through a 4-foot gap in the trees.

"I flew home with him after he missed the cut here," Mark
O'Meara said after a 66 left him one stroke back. "He didn't like
that too much. But you guys know as much as I do that he loves a challenge."

Also at 66 was John Daly, riding the confidence of winning the
BMW International Open in Germany last week to end a six-year
drought. Daly had a 375-yard drive on No. 13 to set up a two-putt
birdie, but the biggest surprise was a bogey-free card.

"I only had three bogeys last week," Daly said. "When they told me that, I about fainted. I didn't realize I didn't have any bogeys today. Wow."

Woods' streak of 75 tour events making the cut -- the fourth longest in PGA Tour history -- actually dates to Pebble Beach in 1998 when he withdrew by not returning in August for a tournament that began in February.

Royal Montreal is the only place where he was sent packing on
Friday. At this rate, Woods figures to spend this weekend
contending for another championship.

Woods, coming off his first victory of the summer two weeks ago
at the NEC Invitational, played away from dangerously tucked pins
and gave himself ample birdie opportunities. He converted only
three, but every putt had a look at the hole.

"I'm pleased with the way I just kind of plodded my way
along," he said.

He faced real trouble only once, a driver that sailed into right
rough and trees on No. 11. A clump of grass kept him from playing a
punch fade around the trees, so he hit a 3-iron through a 4-foot
gap in the trees. He came up short of the green, flopped his pitch
to 12 feet and saved par.

"I enjoy the challenge of it," Woods said. "I don't enjoy being in there."

The other co-leaders love being near the top, because it hasn't
happened much this year.

McGovern, who has only conditional status, missed his last three cuts and will have to play well to avoid going back to Q-school. He finished 146th on the money list last year and can play only tournaments that have room for him.

Gogel, who lost a seven-stroke lead to Woods in the final round
of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am last year, has not played since
missing the cut in the Buick Open. Part of that was planned because
his wife gave birth to their first child, Kimball Ann.

Gogel had five straight birdies starting on No. 3 and was at 6
under until missing a 3-foot par putt on No. 17.

"Five under, when I've taken three weeks off, is a pretty good start," Gogel said.

The most peculiar round belonged to Muehr, who hit only six fairways, chipped in for birdie on No. 16 and holed a 40-foot par putt on No. 5 after playing from a plugged lie in the bunker.

"It was a scrambling day and it takes a lot out of you," Muehr said. "But I'm ready to keep playing."

Muehr fought his way into contention at the Nissan Open in Los Angeles, and tied for the lead with eight holes to play until a few mistakes in a driving rain dropped him into a tie for 13th at Riviera. That turned out to be his best finish of the year.

"I was a rookie and in a situation where I could have folded up
like a Coleman tent," he said. "Just the fact that I played well
is encouraging for the next time I'm in that situation.
Unfortunately, I haven't put myself in that situation since then."

Woods is familiar with these circumstances. He already has won
five times this year and is trying to become the first player in 50
years to repeat as Canadian Open champion.

At least this time at Royal Montreal, he should be able to stick
around until the end.

Notes
Grant Waite, the runner-up to Woods at Glen Abbey last
year, won't get a chance to challenge him this year. Waite
overslept, then was stuck in traffic and showed up six minutes past
his 7:29 a.m. tee time. Players are assessed a two-stroke penalty
for showing up within five minutes of their tee time. Any longer is
automatic disqualification. ... When asked the appropriate age to
start playing golf, Woods said, "I came out of the womb playing
golf. My mom said I was born two weeks early. I said, 'Yeah,
because the umbilical cord was too weak (for) a shaft." ... Mike
Weir of Canada posted his lowest score ever in a Canadian Open with
a 2-under 68. Last year, he made the cut for the first time in 10
tries.