Originally created 06/20/03

Tiger still chasing Furyk; Baird shoots 63



HARRISON, N.Y. -- Tiger Woods is still chasing Jim Furyk.

Four days after finishing 11 strokes behind Furyk in the U.S. Open, Woods was looking up at him again after the first round of the Buick Classic.

Woods shot a 4-under 67 Thursday, leaving the eight-time major champion a stroke behind Furyk - and four behind leader Briny Baird - after a surprisingly rain-free day on the soggy Westchester Country Club course.

"It could have been a lot better," said Woods, who was 5 under after 10 holes. "I really had some chances to increase it, but instead it went the other way."

Furyk is trying to join Hale Irwin (1990) and Ernie Els (1997) as the only players to follow a U.S. Open victory with a win at Westchester.

"I got three really good nights of sleep after hardly sleeping at all Sunday, so I'm well-rested," Furyk said. "I haven't run out of steam yet, and my game physically is in good shape. As long as I keep concentrating well, I'll be in good shape."

Baird, the son of Champions Tour player Butch Baird, shot a career-best 63 - one off the course record - to take a three-stroke lead over Furyk and Joey Sindelar.

"It's one round. There's three more to go," said Baird, who holed a 77-yard shot for an eagle on his first hole - the par-4 10th. "Obviously, I'm in a better position than anybody else in the field right now, but that can change real quick."

Retief Goosen and Shigeki Maruyama matched Woods with 67s, and Els was another stroke back along with Deane Pappas, J.L. Lewis and Skip Kendall. Sergio Garcia, the 2001 winner, shot a 70, eagling the par-5 ninth to cap a wild round that included two double-bogeys, three bogeys and six birdies.

Woods made a 6-foot birdie putt on the par-3 opening hole and birdied Nos. 4, 7 and 9 and 10 to reach 5 under. But he bogeyed No. 13 and lost another stroke on the 15th before closing with a birdie on the par-5 18th.

"I strung some holes together, which I haven't been able to do," he said. "It's been a couple of good holes and then a couple holes off."

After winning three of his first four events following offseason knee surgery, Woods entered the week with only seven sub-70 rounds in his last five tournaments. Last week at Olympia Fields, he had weekend rounds of 75 and 72 to tie for 20th, his fourth straight loss in a major after victories in seven of the previous 11.

"I feel like I'm close," he said. "It's nice to show some positive signs. Today is a good indication that I'm headed in the right direction."

Sindelar made a 15-foot eagle putt on No. 18 to make the turn at 1 under, and added four birdies on the front nine. Choosing accuracy over length off the tee, the 45-year-old New Yorker hit his driver only on the three par-5s.

"When the rough is this tall, I don't want anything to do with it. My 1-iron was very faithful to me," said Sindelar, who won the last of six tour titles in 1990.

"I think I'm still good enough to win again. I still honestly believe that. But the competition is not the same as it was. It's just not."

Divots: Woods is trying to complete a sweep of Buick's three tour events. He won the Buick Open in Michigan in August and the Buick Invitational in February in San Diego in his first start after knee surgery. The Westchester tournament is one of only five PGA Tour events he has played more than once without winning. ... Defending champion Chris Smith opened with a 78. ... Greg Norman withdrew because of a back problem.



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