SHANGHAI, China – Playing in his first tournament in five weeks, Tiger Woods had a double bogey on his second hole and finished the opening round of the HSBC Champions tournament seven shots behind leader Jyoti Randhawa.

Woods, who had gone 39 days without hitting a competitive shot after winning the World Golf Championship by eight shots on Oct. 1, shot an even-par 72 Thursday.

“I was right there in a position to get to 4 under,” Woods said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way – it went the other way – and I left myself an awful lot of work with three days to go.”

India’s Randhawa made seven birdies and finished with a 65 to take a one-stroke lead over 2005 U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell and two others. Scotland’s Marc Warren and South Korea’s Yang Yong-eun also were at 6 under.

Padraig Harrington, who clinched the 2006 European Order of Merit title two weeks ago at Valderrama, Spain, and Thailand’s Plaphol Chawalit had 67s and were tied for fifth after the opening round. Five players, including Retief Goosen and K.J. Choi, were at 4 under. Chris DiMarco, Colin Montgomerie and Peter O’Malley each shot 3-under 69.

The Asian Tour’s No. 1 player, Jeev Singh of India, played in Woods’ group and was at 2 under.

Woods finished one stroke better than Jim Furyk, who had five bogeys and four birdies in a 1-over 73.

Woods started with a birdie at the 10th, but followed it with a double-bogey 6 after hooking his drive into some trees.

“It throws the momentum off in the wrong direction,” Woods said. “Tomorrow, I hope to get off to a better start.”

Creamer jumps into lead with 64

MOBILE, Ala. – Paula Creamer matched her career best with an 8-under 64 on Thursday to take a two-stroke lead over Lorena Ochoa and two other players after the first round of The Mitchell Company LPGA Tournament of Champions.

With the players allowed to lift, clean and place their balls in the fairways because of wet conditions on Magnolia Grove’s Crossings Course, 27 of the 39 players in the winners-only field broke par.

“They gave birdies out there,” said the 20-year-old Creamer, winless this year after winning twice and earning rookie of the year honors last season.

“It was fun. I enjoyed that. It’s a difficult golf course. You can get fooled a lot by the grain of the greens, but I went out there and had fun.”

Creamer had a bogey-free round.

“I had really good ball-striking,” she said. “The distance control of my irons was great. I felt very confident over the ball today. It’s just all about confidence and timing and right now, my timing of my golf swing with my irons is really good.”

Ochoa, the Mexican star who leads the money list and is tied for tour victory lead with five, can wrap up the player of the year award with a victory. She matched Liselotte Neumann and Joo Mi Kim with a 66.

Juli Inkster, Marisa Baena and Patricia Meunier-Lebouc were three strokes back at 67, and Sung Ah Yim, Jee Young Lee and Stacy Prammanasudh shot 68s. Defending champion Christina Kim opened with a 78.

Trio share top spot in Nationwide Tour finale

RICHMOND, Texas – Gary Christian overcame back spasms, Andrew Buckle rallied with five consecutive birdies and Cliff Kresge made a late eagle Thursday to grab shares of the first-round lead in the Nationwide Tour Championship.

Christian, Buckle and Kresge opened with 5-under 67s in the season-ending event at The Houstonian. The winner will earn $135,000, while the season money champion will be fully exempt on the 2007 PGA Tour and earn a spot in The Players Championship. Nos. 2-22 on the final money list will be conditionally exempt on the PGA Tour and Nos. 23-37 will get spots in the final stage of the National Qualifying Tournament. Chris Tidland, Steve Allan and Brandt Snedecker shot 68s. Buckle, 18th on the money list at $211,976, was 2 over after five holes. He lost a ball on No. 3 and hooked his tee shot on No. 5 for bogeys.

But he made putts of 15 feet on No. 6 and 20 feet on No. 9 for birdies, then moved to the back side with four straight birdies, including a 20-footer on the par-4 13th. He pitched within a foot on No. 16 for his final birdie. Kresge had five birdies and two bogeys and the eagle on the par-5 16th that pulled him into a tie for the lead.

Christian, 58th with $103,375, almost didn’t get into the tournament. He had severe back spasms Tuesday and managed to tee up for the first round after a visit to a doctor and a chiropractor.

Christian earned a spot in the tournament with a 10th-place finish two weeks ago in the Miccosukee Championship in Miami and he kept up his strong play in the opening round at The Houstonian.

He birdied the opening hole, made a 20-foot par putt on the third hole and birdied the par-3 fourth. He was 2 under after a bogey on No. 13 before charging home with birdies on three of the final five holes.

Christian had birdie putts of 15 and 6 feet on 16 and 17 and had a 15-foot putt to save par on the final hole for his 5-under round.

Ken Duke, the money leader with $369,318, shot a 70.

AP-ES-11-09-06 1748EST



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