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Calm after storm feeds field at Doral

DORAL — A storm packing 50 mph gusts toppled two TV towers, uprooted 17 young palm trees and sent the monster scoreboard at the 18th hole crashing to the ground Thursday at Doral.

When the Cadillac Championship resumed, Hunter Mahan and most of the world's best players tore up the course.

The raging wind was replaced by an eerie calm that lasted just long enough for the field to take aim at the Blue Monster. Mahan birdied his opening four holes and kept right on rolling until the opening round of the World Golf Championships event was suspended by darkness.

He didn't miss a green, didn't come close to a bogey in his 11 holes and was atop the leaderboard at 7 under par.

"I guess with that storm, it brought some tranquility to the golf course," Mahan said. "Because there was just no wind. There was nothing out there."

No one was injured by the wind-created havoc, and the course was fine.

In the group that generated most of the buzz and attracted the largest crowd, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson scrapped their way around while last year's U.S. Open champion, Graeme McDowell, kept up with his great short game.

Mickelson made a birdie late in his round and was at 2 under through 15 holes, one shot ahead of Woods and McDowell.

"We had a fun day," Mickelson said. "We didn't play our best, but we didn't play terrible to where we … shot ourselves in the foot. We are in good position (today) to come back out, finish the round strong and play our second round."

The other featured group — the top three players in the world ranking — lived up to their billing.

Martin Kaymer, in his second week as No. 1, opened with three straight birdies and was 5 under through 10. Match Play winner Luke Donald (No. 3) birdied the 10th hole to join him at 5 under. Lee Westwood (No. 2) was at 4 under.

"I had a fantastic start," Kaymer said. "But to be honest, it was not that difficult (Thursday). You can see the scores. A bunch of people are under par, so it doesn't seem that difficult."

Tim Clark, Bubba Watson and Ben Crane withdrew before the event started, putting the field at 66. Clark has not played since his runnerup finish in the Sony Open at the start of the year because of an elbow injury. Watson cited an illness. Crane is coping with a bad back.

PGA: James Driscoll shot 9-under 63 in the first round of the Puerto Rico Open at Rio Grande, missing a chance to break 60 when he played the final four holes in 2 over. Driscoll had 10 birdies in a 12-hole stretch from Nos. 12 to 3 and ended with a two-stroke lead over Will MacKenzie. Driscoll matched the course record set by Derek Lamely in the third round of his victory last year. Mike Weir (wrist) and Boo Weekley (hand) withdrew during the round. Weir was coming off a career-worst 85 in the second round of the Honda Classic.

Calm after storm feeds field at Doral 03/10/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 10, 2011 10:50pm]

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