Woods and Mickelson lurk as Glover takes a firm grip

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[FONT=Geneva,Arial,sans-serif]Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson ended honours even in the opening round of the US PGA championship in Chicago today - but both now have some catching up to do. The world number one and two, clashing in a major for only the third time in their careers, both returned three under par 69s at Medinah Country Club, as did playing partner Geoff Ogilvy.
But the three men, who have won six of the last seven majors between them, trailed early pace setter Lucas Glover - one of the many Americans hoping to grab a Ryder Cup spot in this their final counting event - by three strokes. On a difficult day for the European players Luke Donald, wearing black in memory of Darren Clarke's wife Heather, was only one off the lead with one to play, but bogeyed his last hole for a 68. Lee Westwood, whose wife was attending the funeral in Northern Ireland as he teed off, made a good start too. He led at four under for a while, but he also dropped a shot at the ninth and so was in the group on 69. Padraig Harrington, who is donating his prize money this week to breast cancer research, was two under after 13 holes, but followed bogeys on the next two with a triple bogey seven and finished with a bitterly disappointing 75. Five strokes worse than that was last year's joint runner-up Thomas Bjorn, another dressed in black and very emotional at the prayer service for Heather Clarke led by American Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman before play got underway.
Woods and Mickelson inevitably drew most of the crowd and it was Mickelson, the defending champion and Masters champion, who drew most of the early applause. Open champion Woods, winner at Medinah in 1999, hooked his opening drive and hit a tree. He had to lay up on the par five as a result, but then sent his 140-yard approach over the green and failed to get up and down.
While a bogey six went on his card Mickelson smashed a 260-yard wood onto the green from the edge of the rough and two-putted for birdie, then added another from five feet on the next. Having given his rival a three shot start Woods would probably have taken being on level terms at the end of the day and that was what happened. He birdied the 12th, 14th, 15th and long seventh, while Mickelson bogeyed the short second before picking up more shots on the fifth and seventh, the two par fives on the front nine.
Woods, who has won the last six majors in which he began with a score in the 60s, said: "I was behind the eight ball early, but we all understand it's a long way and you just have to keep plugging away. "We all did that and were grinding away. I kept the ball in play and made a couple." Mickelson, whose short-game coach Dave Pelz had sparked a debate by saying he thought his man was the better of the two when playing well, had two drivers in his bag just as he did in winning at Augusta in April.
"We both played okay but had the chance to go lower and I'll try to get it ironed out on the range," he commented. "I've played a lot with Tiger (in all tournaments) and it's very enjoyable. He's in his own world, I'm taking care of what I'm doing and we shake hands afterwards."
Westwood was in contention on the same course seven years ago, but then wilted in the intense heat and humidity of a third round played in the company of Woods. He needed to be put on a drip afterwards. Conditions have been nowhere near as fierce this week and, even with the closing bogey, he was delighted with his score after two weeks' holiday in the Bahamas. "I had 10 days lying on the beach. After six weeks in a row it was a rest I felt I needed," he said.
Asked about how the funeral of the wife of his stablemate and Ryder Cup partner had affected him, Westwood, who was encouraged to play by Clarke when they spoke on Monday, added: "I have a job to do, but when things go bad you do tell yourself a lot worse happens and has happened."
Donald, who has had a base in Chicago since his student days, was pleased with his start too. It is the first time in the majors this year that he has got into the hunt on the opening day. A holed bunker shot on the short 17th, his eighth, was the highlight. "I was a little between clubs and pulled it into the sand. It was a reasonably simple shot, but if I thinned it the water was behind. I got the perfect line and speed, though."
Harrington's troubles on the 16th compounded after he drove into the rough. He went across the fairway into a worse lie and then with his fourth shot duffed a pitch.
England's Kenneth Ferrie led right at the start after racing to three under - something he did not expect playing with a replacement set of clubs after his own were lost en route to America. The Northumberland golfer, who jointly led the US Open with Mickelson with a round to go in June, had also suffered a recurrence of back trouble on Tuesday and was not sure to play on the eve of the event, but with the aid of painkillers got it round in a two-under 70.
Even more remarkable was the performance of American Billy Mayfair. He had six birdies in the first 11 holes to lead just two weeks after surgery for testicular cancer, but then slipped back to three under.
That left Glover, 14th in the American Ryder Cup race, one ahead of compatriot Billy Andrade, who came in on the eve of the event following the withdrawal of Australian Steve Elkington, who shared second place with Bjorn last year. Brett Wetterich is the man in the hot seat of 10th in the standings. He was four under after 11, but then had a quadruple bogey eight at the next and crashed to a 76. As he did that Davis Love, needing a good week to force himself back into the cup reckoning, birdied four of the first five holes and Sergio Garcia, runner-up to Woods in 1999, started with three threes to be two under.