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Putting problems continue to bedevil Woods

Tiger Woods shoots 2-under 69 at the Australian Masters, four shots off the lead.

Associated Press

Tiger Woods shoots 2-under 69 at the Australian Masters, four shots off the lead.

MELBOURNE, Australia — Tiger Woods played 14 holes before missing a green in the opening round of the Australian Masters, which would seem like the ideal start to defending a title for the last time this year.

Trouble was, he couldn't get a putt close to the hole, which was not the first time that happened this year.

Woods had to settle for 2-under 69 Thursday, leaving him four shots behind a trio of players who competed before far fewer fans and had far less trouble on the greens at Victoria Golf Club.

"That was probably the highest score I could have shot," Woods said.

Adam Bland and Alistair Presnell, roommates on the Nationwide Tour, each had a 6-under 65 in the cool morning before the greens became crisp under a warming afternoon sun. They were joined late in the day by Daniel Gaunt.

Last year's Australian Masters was the 82nd worldwide victory for Woods, and it remains his most recent win. The tournament ended 12 days before his middle-of-the-night car accident that led to revelations of womanizing.

Woods returned to defend his title as the No. 2 player in the world — he lost his top ranking to Lee Westwood two weeks ago — who is trying to retool his swing.

"I hit the ball well all day," Woods said. "It was just a matter of getting committed to hit the ball a little harder on my putts. I was in all the right spots. But they're really slow up the hill and really quick going down, and I didn't make the adjustment."

European: Phil Mickelson, hoping to take over the No. 1 ranking, opened with 4-under 67 and was four strokes off the pace after the rain-soaked first round at the Singapore Open. Kim Bi-o and Chris Wood each shot 63 to share the lead. The 204-man field was divided in half and played on different courses; 108 players were unable to complete their rounds after thunderstorms delayed play for more than four hours.

PGA: Chris Stroud shot 10-under 62 in the opening round of the Children's Miracle Network Classic, surging past Rickie Fowler by four strokes and taking the clubhouse lead after play was halted because of darkness at Lake Buena Vista. Roland Thatcher was three shots off the pace, and four others were tied with Fowler in third. Fourteen players were still on the course when play was called. The round's start was delayed an hour by fog.

LPGA: Cristie Kerr shot a tournament-record 8-under 64 to take a three-stroke lead over Stacy Lewis in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational at Guadalajara, Mexico. Ochoa opened with 74 on her home course in her first tour start since retiring in April. Ai Miyazato, Paula Creamer, Na Yeon Choi and Katherine Hull shot 68. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome was last after 7-over 79. Michelle Wie, the winner last year for her first tour title, withdrew after the round because of a back injury. She shot 78.

Putting problems continue to bedevil Woods 11/11/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 11, 2010 9:54pm]
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