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September 26, 2009

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Tiger's tip puts O'Hair ahead

AMERICAN Sean O'Hair, inspired by a putting tip from world No. 1 Tiger Woods on the eve of the Tour Championship, charged into a one-shot lead in Thursday's opening round.

O'Hair birdied four of the first nine holes on the way to a sparkling four-under 66 at a sun-baked East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta in the final event of the PGA Tour's lucrative playoff series.

With FedExCup honors also on the line for the elite field of 30, O'Hair finished one stroke ahead of Woods, British Open champion Stewart Cink and Irishman Padraig Harrington.

Lucas Glover, who won his first major title at the US Open in June, was alone in fifth after opening with a 68.

"Today was just all around a good round," O'Hair told reporters after carding six birdies and two bogeys. "I pretty much did everything the way I needed to.

"I hit it really nicely off the tee. The ball was going a very, very long way today and I putted it nicely."

The slim American played nine holes in practice with Woods on Wednesday and was delighted to get advice from his playing partner after asking for help on his putting stroke. "He's just kind of helping me out a little bit with my back swing," said O'Hair, whose 28 putts included a monster 50-footer for birdie at the par-four fourth. "I tend to de-loft the putter and take it a little too square going back.

"I'm not even close to doing exactly what he has told me to do but it's the key for me to take my putting to another level because...that's kind of what's held me back for a long time.

"Getting advice like that from good players is obviously awesome but getting it from basically the greatest player of all time is pretty cool," he added.

Woods, who led the FedExCup points standings coming into this week, shrugged off a shaky start to surge into contention with three birdies in four holes from the 12th.

"This golf course you have to be very patient, especially with greens this firm," said Woods, champion here in 2007.

"It's really hard to get the ball close unless you drive the ball in the fairway and have a short iron in."

Major winner

Of the other big names in the field, Masters champion Angel Cabrera of Argentina carded a 72 while triple major winner Phil Mickelson returned a 73 that featured a quadruple-bogey eight at the 14th.

In Kyoto, Japan, Daisuke Maruyama shot a five-under 66 yesterday to take the halfway lead at the Asia-Pacific Open.

Maruyama had six birdies and one bogey in the second round at the Joyo Country Club. The Japanese veteran leads South Korean Kim Hyung-sung (68) at seven-under 135 overall.

The 38-year-old Maruyama is bidding to end a four-year title drought.

"I've been lazy and have not worked hard enough in the past," said Maruyama, whose last win came at the 2005 Fuji Sankei Classic. "I feel fitter now, especially on this course which is hilly. I feel confident of winning."

Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng (67) was a further stroke back at five-under 137, along with Japanese players Taichi Teshima (66) and Toru Suzuki (64).

Teenager Ryo Ishikawa, currently Japan's top golfer after three straight victories, struggled and was tied for 51st after a one-over 72.


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