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MAHAN STAYS HOT BY SHARING LEAD AT 67

Hunter Mahan, coming off four consecutive top-10s finishes, made five birdies during a seven-hole stretch Thursday to tie for the lead at the Bridgestone Invitational. Despite a late double bogey, he shot 3-under 67, which was matched by Paul Casey and Rory Sabbatini.

Tiger Woods, a five-time winner of the event who is going for his third consecutive title in the World Golf Championship, shot 68. It included a 5-wood from 245 yards in the right rough that squeezed between two trees and just over the back of the green for birdie on the par-5 No. 2.

"Very satisfied," said Woods, who has shot in the 60s in the first round all 10 times he has played the course.

Mahan shot 63 to qualify for the U.S. Open, where he tied for 13th. Since then, he has won at Hartford, tied for eighth at Woods' event in Bethesda, Md., tied for sixth at the British Open and tied for fifth at the Canadian Open.

Only 13 players broke par. The 67s were the highest scores to lead the first round at Firestone since it became a WGC event in 1999.

"I've never seen (the greens) this fast," Mark Calcavecchia said.

Mahan, playing the course for the first time, had no trouble with them if only because he didn't have much space between his ball and the cup. He hit a 5-wood to 20 feet for a two-putt birdie at the par-5 No. 2; hit a sand wedge to 2 feet at No. 3; a 7-iron to 12 feet at No. 5 and closed his birdie run with a 7-iron to 10 feet at No. 7 and a wedge to 4 feet at No. 8.

Even after a double bogey at No. 18, he said there was no need to panic.

"I'm just playing golf," said Mahan, a 25-year-old from Oklahoma State. "It's just exciting to play this good, to feel like I'm finally reaching my potential and finally playing the way I can. Just going out there and letting go."

FURYK OUT: Jim Furyk withdrew from the Bridgestone with a back injury but said he intends to play in next week's PGA Championship. Furyk, ranked No. 2 in the world after winning the Canadian Open on Sunday, felt tightness Tuesday at the practice range and said the pain has increased since.

MORE PGA: Steve Flesch had two eagles and five birdies for 9-under 63, one off the course record, at the Reno-Tahoe Open in Nevada. Jose Conceres had six birdies and a hole-in-one on the 220-yard No. 7 for 64. Tadd Fujikawa, a 16-year-old in his pro debut, double bogeyed his first and 10th holes and shot 6-over 78.

EUROPEAN PGA: Christian Nilsson had seven birdies for a 7-under 65 and one-stroke lead over Jean-Baptiste Gonnet in the Russian Open in Nakhabino. Play was suspended by darkness after a rain delay, leaving 27 players to complete the round. Richie Ramsay, the U.S. Amateur winner, began his pro career with 2-under 70.

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