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Doug Ferguson / AP Golf Writer, Published August 13 2010

Woods shoots 1 under at PGA Championship

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Tiger Woods broke par in the PGA Championship, cause for celebration Thursday.

It wasn’t as good as Bubba Watson and Francesco Molinari of Italy, who handled the breeze and bunkers at Whistling Straits and wound up atop the leaderboard at 4-under 68 among those who finished the first round.

Then again, it wasn’t nearly as bad as what some were expecting.

Even after the fog lifted along the shores of Lake Michigan, no one was sure what they would see from Woods. The answer came early, with three birdies on his opening holes to – get this – put his name atop the leaderboard.

But only briefly.

There were enough errant shots, including one that went so far left it found a marsh he didn’t know was there, that Woods had to make an 8-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a 1-under 71.

“I’ve played too good not to shoot under par,” Woods said. “It would’ve been very disappointing and frustrating to end up at even par as well as I played today. To make that putt – to shoot under par – just feels like that’s what I should have shot the way I played today. And that’s a good feeling.”

Since when is shooting 71 a good feeling for a guy with 14 majors?

When he’s coming off the worst tournament of his career, an 18-over 298 at Firestone to beat only one player in the field, raising questions that ranged from whether this would be his last PGA Tour event of the year in America to whether he belonged in the Ryder Cup.

“Welcome to golf, you know?” Woods said.

The fog delay meant none of the late starters could finish the opening round.

Ernie Els, desperate to make sure another year doesn’t end without a major, played bogey-free through 14 holes and was at 4 under, making a 7-foot par save on the 14th shortly before the horn sounded. Also at 4 under were Matt Kuchar and Nick Watney, courtesy of eagles – Kuchar on the 13th early in his round by holing from the fairway, Watney on the par-5 11th, his last hole of the day.

Phil Mickelson, closer than ever to going to No. 1 in the world, ended a wild day at 1 under. He knocked it close for a couple of birdies, and spent the rest of the time in the bunkers and rough as he scrambled to save par. He finished on a strong note with back-to-back birdies, the last one a wedge that stopped 2 feet away on the 11th.

In a summer of majors at Pebble Beach and St. Andrews, it only figures that a fog delay just over three hours would be in Wisconsin.

“I had never gotten up at 5:30 for a 12 o’clock tee time,” said Charles Howell, who shot a 69.

No one started better than Howell, who ran off four straight birdies on the back nine with a freshening breeze at his back. Hanging on proved to be the difficult part for him and so many others.

The group at 69 also included Ryan Moore, the only player among the early starters to reach 5 under until dropping two shots over his last three holes into the wind. Jason Day of Australia bogeyed his last hole for a 69.

Darren Clarke and Simon Khan also were at 3 under when play was halted.