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Tiger leads foursome by two shots at Quail Hollow

TIGER Woods found his putting touch to post his lowest score in more than a year and take a two-stroke lead after the opening round at the US$6.5-million Quail Hollow Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Thursday.

Woods, in his first start since a disappointing tie for sixth at the US Masters, stormed home with six birdies on his inward half, including lengthy birdie putts on his last three holes on a pleasant spring morning at Quail Hollow.

His bogey-free seven-under-par 65 left him two strokes ahead of fellow Americans Phil Mickelson, Steve Marino and Jason Dufner, and Australian Robert Allenby.

The group another shot back included two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen of South Africa, and Americans Hunter Mahan, Jeff Maggert and Lucas Glover.

Masters champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina opened with a 70, along with defending champion Anthony Kim of the US.

"I hit a couple of loose shots here and there but I putted really well," Woods told reporters.

"I had a couple of key saves that kept the round going (and) it's always nice when you birdie the last three."

Woods, who won here in 2007 but missed last year's event through injury, left the Masters with steam coming from his ears after bogeying the final two holes.

"Augusta was a little frustrating because I was struggling with the two-way miss. I could miss it left and right.

"It took a few days (to get over it) and once that was over, it was back to getting ready for this event," said the world No. 1, whose 65 on Thursday matched his final round at the European Tour's Dubai Desert Classic last February.

Mickelson also enjoyed a bogey-free round, and stormed out of the blocks to go five-under after 11 holes.

In trouble at the par-four 18th, the 38-year-old landed a 70-yard pitch from the rough to within three feet to avoid dropping a shot.

"The shot was slightly uphill and slightly into the grain and I was able to get just enough spin out of that rough to get it close," he said.

"I had a bogey-free round going, so it was nice to get that shot up-and-down."

Four-under after 10 holes, Padraig Harrington dropped five strokes on his last two for a disappointing 73.

The Irishman triple-bogeyed the par-three 17th after pulling his tee shot into the lake left of the green, then drove into a fairway creek on the 18th to finish with a double bogey.


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