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Woods ties record, silences slump talk

Here's one way to quiet all that talk about a slump.

Tiger Woods tied a course and tournament record with 9-under-par 63 Thursday, taking a one-stroke lead at the 100th Western Open. It was his best round of the year, and his best since he shot 63 in the final round of the Disney Golf Classic in October.

Woods is the 13th to shoot 63 at the Western _ a tournament he's won twice _ and the first since 2000.

Talk that Woods was in a slump was building even before the U.S. Open. After winning three of his first four events this year, he wasn't a factor at the Masters and wasn't in contention at his next two tournaments.

But it was a disappointing weekend at the Open, also played in the Chicago area, that really got the chatter going. He struggled with a balky putter all week, and never made the charge fans expected. For the first time in four years, he didn't own a title from one of the four majors.

Woods insisted Wednesday his game was fine _ and he more than backed that up Thursday. He hit 10 of 14 fairways, and 15 of 18 greens. And that putter that's given him so much trouble? He needed 27 putts for the day.

He was one ahead of Vance Veazey, who shot 64. David Toms had 65 and Defending champion Jerry Kelly had 66.

Starting on the back nine, Woods gave notice early that he meant business, making a 24-footer for eagle on the par-5 11th. He pointed at the hole as the ball dropped into the cup, and the crowd erupted into cheers of "Eagle! Eagle!"

Woods grinned, bumping fists with caddie Steve Williams.

A rain delay of 1 hour, 41 minutes interrupted his round after teeing off on 18, and Woods looked a little rusty when play resumed. He hit a bad second shot, tossing his club as the ball landed on the fringe. He chipped on, and things had the potential to get really ugly when his ball rolled all the way across the green and onto the fringe on the other side. But he made a spectacular chip-in to save par, pumping his fist and smiling when the ball rolled in.

EUROPEAN OPEN: Retief Goosen birdied the last hole and shot 6-under 66 to move into a three-way tie for the lead after the first round in Straffan, Ireland.

Darren Clarke's shot on No. 11 struck the pregnant wife of playing partner Stephen Leaney. Tracey Leaney sustained a small cut on her head and was released from the medical unit after two hours of observation.

"Fortunately, it hit the tree first before it struck her on the head so it wasn't a direct hit," Clarke said. "She is six months pregnant and it was a horrible moment. We walked up to see her lying on the ground. It was terrible."