Sat, 05 Mar 2005
From: Reuters

Mickelson leads as Tiger lurks at Doral

Reuters, Toronto

A red-hot Phil Mickelson fired an eight-under-par 64 to grab a share of the first-round lead at the Doral Open in Florida as Tiger Woods lurked one shot back on Thursday.

Mickelson, who arrived in Miami after back-to-back wins in Phoenix and Pebble Beach, was quickly back in form with four late birdies to join Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal, Briton Brian Davis and American Marco Dawson atop the leaderboard.

Doral's Blue course, better known as the Blue Monster, did not prove very scary in benign conditions as Olazabal, Davis and Dawson carded bogey-free rounds.

Despite hitting only five fairways, Woods also produced an unblemished round to sit one shot back thanks to a hot putter.

Mickelson experienced an inconsistent start with two birdies and a bogey over his first six holes.

The U.S. Masters champion suddenly caught fire on the seventh, however, scorching the final 12 holes with eight birdies.

"It's nice to play well, especially when the field is so strong," Mickelson told reporters. "I know that the field is so strong and you've got guys like Tiger and Vijay (Singh) and Retief (Goosen) and Mike Weir and David Toms, guys who are making a lot of birdies and have the ability to shoot 62 or 63.

"When I'm out there I find myself pushing to go lower than four or five under because I know it just isn't going to cut it with those guys in the field."

While Mickelson's name at the top of the leaderboard has become a common sight, the three men alongside him left some in the galleries searching through programs and newspapers for information.

The 1999 U.S. Masters champion, Olazabal has failed to win on the PGA or European Tours for over three years and needed a sponsor's invitation to get into the $5.5 million event.

Davis, who posted his top PGA result with a tie for third at the rain-hit Nissan Open two weeks ago, and Dawson, playing in his first Tour event in 10 months after missing most of last season with a back injury, have yet to make their names.

Woods started a tournament for the third consecutive week in position to reclaim the world number one ranking from Singh, and he immediately put pressure on the Fijian.

Singh, meanwhile, struggled through first his nine but salvaged his round after the turn by finishing birdie-birdie to go four under and sit just four off the pace alongside Sergio Garcia and 16 others.

South Africa's Goosen quietly played himself into contention with a five-under 67 and Australia's Craig Parry opened the defense of his title with a three-under 69.

In Dubai, overnight leader Ernie Els was overhauled by a red- hot Miguel Angel Jimenez in the Dubai Desert Classic second round on Friday.

Spaniard Jimenez, the European Tour's form player last year with five victories, fired a seven-under-par 65 to set the pace at 12-under 132.

The cigar-puffing Ryder Cup player reeled off eight birdies and a solitary bogey at the par-four ninth, his final hole, in hot and relatively calm conditions at the Emirates Golf Club.

South African Els, bidding this week for an unprecedented third Desert Classic crown, finished two strokes behind after adding a flawless 68 to his first-round 66.

Britain's Stephen Dodd was a further shot back at nine under, after matching Jimenez for the best round of the week. Another Briton, Ryder Cup player Lee Westwood, was among a group at six under after carding 68.

Jimenez, who opened with a 67, surged to the top of the leaderboard with a run of four birdies in the first six holes.

He then picked up a further four shots, including a chip-in for birdie at the par-three seventh, before stumbling at the last where he failed to get up and down from greenside rough.

"I hit the ball well all day and just spoiled it with that bogey," the Spaniard told reporters.

"I hope I can keep my game the way it is at the moment for the rest of the week."





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