Woods hurting but still in contention

Friday, October 1, 2004

Tiger Woods pursed his lips and cursed under his breath as he stood over his first tee shot, feeling spasms in his back and knowing the sharp pain that was coming with each shot.

He yelped after his second drive. His knees buckled after making contact on the sixth tee. He stopped a half-dozen times and lifted his shirt so his caddie could rub heating cream between his shoulder blades.

What he didn't expect was the score -- a 4-under 68 that left Woods two shots behind British Open champion Todd Hamilton after one painful round in the American Express Championship on Thursday in Thomastown, Ireland.

"I thought it might loosen up a little bit, but it didn't," Woods said. "I was hoping the spasms would go away, but that didn't happen, either. I just had to get through it somehow and post a number."

Woods hurt his back when he fell asleep in an awkward position while flying home from New York last week in his private plane. He said on the eve of the tournament that he might not be able to play, an injury report met with skepticism until he showed up on the practice range and went 20 minutes before taking a full swing.

By the end of a cool, overcast day, only the score next to his name looked normal.

"Quite nice," Hamilton said. "Even if the guy is healthy or hurt, he's got a big heart. He can be hitting the ball all over the place -- which he's done a lot lately -- and still shoot 2, 3, 4 under. The guy never gives up."

Injury aside, Woods was just one of the guys in a round where 48 of the 68 players in the $7 million World Golf Championship broke par.

Three tied atop PGA event

John Senden closed his 7-under 65 with his second eagle of the round and shared the lead with Harrison Frazar and Glen Day after the first round of the Southern Farm Bureau Classic on Thursday in Madison, Miss.

-- From wire reports

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