GRAND BLANC, Mich. (AP) – The most notable moment of Nick Watney’s rookie season on the PGA Tour so far was when he played with Michelle Wie earlier this month.

That is, until Thursday.

Watney shot an 8-under 64 to take a one-shot lead over Vijay Singh and Jason Bohn after the first round of the Buick Open, leaving the leader seven strokes ahead of Tiger Woods.

The 24-year-old Watney has missed seven straight cuts, only breaking 70 once, after his season-best 11th-place finish at the Wachovia Championship.

“I didn’t see this coming,” he said.

Watney was in Wie’s group at the John Deere Classic, where he finished six shots behind the 15-year-old phenom.

Jim Furyk (66) and five others will begin Friday’s second round two shots behind the unlikely leader.

Woods started the Buick Open confident and comfortable because he was coming off a five-stroke victory at the British Open and he has always played well at Warwick Hills.

But he was cursing at himself, slamming his club into the ground and kicking his bag on Thursday.

He finished at 71, his worst round at the Buick Open since his first in 1997, and ended his tournament-record tying streak of eight straight rounds in the 60s. Woods won here in 2002, then tied for second and third the past two years.

“I didn’t play awful, that’s the great thing,” Woods said. “I’ll just go ahead and handle my business (Friday) and if I get something out of my round, I’ll be fine.”

If Woods doesn’t, he will be in danger of missing the cut for the second time this year. He missed the cut in May at the Byron Nelson Championship, the first time in more than seven years he left a tournament before it ended.

The cut at the Buick Open is usually between 2 and 4 under.

Woods is playing in his first tournament since winning at St. Andrews two weeks ago and two weeks before the PGA Championship, where he’ll shoot for his 11th major title.

Singh hopes the Buick Open turns a strong year into a spectacular one again. His victory here in 2004 started a run of six wins, including the PGA Championship, in eight events en route to player of the year honors.

Singh could’ve easily been the first-round leader.

He missed makable putts for birdie at Nos. 16 and 17 that would’ve given him the lead alone, and an 8-foot putt for par on the final hole to drop to 7 under.

“There was a chance for me to shoot 10 under,” he said.

Singh is one of three players to win the Buick Open twice. He has a chance to be the first champion to repeat since Tony Lema in 1965, and the first to win the tournament three times.

Warwick Hills, a relatively short course, is usually one of the easiest stops on the PGA Tour. With recent rains soaking the grounds, it was even more susceptible to low scores.

But the world’s top-ranked golfer struggled.

Woods, who had two birdies and a bogey, was scrambling to save par for much of his round.

At the par-5 13th, he tried to reach the green in two, but landed in the water before making par.

Woods, who started his round on the back nine, had trouble at No. 2.

After standing over his tee shot a second time, distracted by a photographer, Woods pulled his drive badly and let the club slip out of his hands in anger. When he got to his ball in the rough behind trees, he kicked his bag before deciding to hook his approach from about 215 yards.

“It’s the perfect lie for it,” Woods told his caddie, Steve Williams.

Woods’ spectacular hook around the trees left him 36 yards from the cup, but he was short on the chip and two-putted for bogey from 28 feet.

Woods straightened out his driver toward the end of the round, crushing some tee shots as far as 319 yards, like he did at No. 7, without benefiting from a roll on the wet fairways. A photographer kicked Woods’ ball after his second shot and though he was able to improve his lie, his approach landed in the bunker and he had to make a 9-footer for par.

“I drove it great, and then hit my irons terrible or left myself long putts,” he said. “Or, I just didn’t make a couple putts or I dunked the ball in the water. Weird things out there.”

It was such an odd day that Woods was tied with a 17-year-old amateur playing in his hometown.

Billy McKay made an eagle from 127 yards at No. 16 – the shot of the day – to move a shot ahead of Woods only to fall into a tie with him after bogeying the last hole.

“I really wanted to make that last putt and beat Tiger,” said McKay, who will be a senior this fall at Grand Blanc High School.

AP-ES-07-28-05 1929EDT

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