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All manor of woe for Woods

Tiger Woods failed to match the party atmosphere with his golf as he slumped to a seven-over-par 79 in the first round of the JP McManus Invitational Pro-Am yesterday.

However, any fears the world number one might have had about receiving a hostile reception were put to rest on the opening day of a two-day event that has raised €55m for charity since it was set up 20 years ago.

A record 40,000 crowd gave Woods -- who took a five-month break from the game after admitting in late 2009 to marital problems amid reports of alleged extra-marital affairs -- a rapturous welcome, lining the fairways 10-deep at the luxurious Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort near Limerick.

Playing with three amateurs in a round that took almost six hours, Woods carded one birdie, six bogeys and a double bogey.

The 14-times major winner, who also struggled at last week's AT&T National in Pennsylvania, left the course without talking to reporters and was ushered away behind the black-tinted windows of an awaiting car. Woods is planning to jet back to the US tonight before returning for next week's British Open at St Andrews.

Triple major winner Pádraig Harrington said the famous Scottish links was ready-made for the 34-year-old American who also won the Open there in 2005 and 2000.

"There is no doubt if Tiger hits form he's comfortably the favourite to win any of the majors and St Andrews sets up very well for him," the Dubliner said.

"Tiger has an advantage that he spins the ball very well.

"He's the number one player at getting the ball to finish closest to where it lands out there and St Andrews requires that because of the firmness of the greens.

"He's very capable of winning without hitting his very best form. Is he about to hit that? I wouldn't write him off, that's for sure," added Harrington.

John Daly, the 1995 Open champion at St Andrews, believes Woods needs to find a replacement for Hank Haney, who quit as coach in May, before he can rediscover his best form.

"Tiger is a guy that's always had to have a teacher, those eyes looking at him," said Daly.


"His mum and dad were always looking for the perfect teacher for him when he was a kid. I think he's gotten used to that."

Pointing to Woods's share of fourth place in this year's US Masters and US Open, Daly added: "Tiger has only had three or four tournaments (this year) where he has not played his best but I thought he played great at the Masters and the US Open.

"So, look out. He'll be back. He's still the number one player."

Thirteen of the top 17 in the world rankings are taking part in the two-day pro-am here including US Open champion Graeme McDowell.

Still coming to terms with his win at Pebble Beach, the Portrush native said: "Once an hour I have a thought where I still can't believe it.

"When you achieve a dream, and that's what it was, an absolute dream, it's quite a surreal feeling and still feels pretty surreal."