TIGER Woods played his first bogey-free round in nine months. It nearly got lost today, however, in the Australian Open, which featured an albatross from Adam Scott and another meltdown for John Daly.
Jarrod Lyle had a seven-under 65 at The Lakes for a one-shot lead over Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney, two of the eight Americans warming up for the Presidents Cup next week.
Thousands of fans who stood atop sand dunes had reason to be impressed with Woods. He hit the ball clean, usually where he was aiming and rarely got in trouble in blustery conditions for a four-under 68, his lowest score to par in the first round of any tournament this year.
"I hit it really good today," Woods said. "It was rewarding that I hit the ball just like I have at home."
Even so, most of the fans following him missed all the excitement.
There was quite a buzz as Woods headed to the eighth tee. The gallery looked down the fairway on the 550-yard par five to see Scott celebrating a six-iron from 220 yards downwind that landed 10 feet in front of the cup and went in for an albatross. That helped the Australian overcome a sloppy start and sent him to a 69.
It was his first albatross since he was 17 in the Greg Norman Junior Masters.
"That's quite a while between drinks," Scott said. "It gave me a boost, for sure. There were a lot of people there, and a lot of hands went in the air."
Two groups behind Woods was Daly and things got downright ugly.
It started on the short par-four 10th when Daly tried to drive the green. He thought his ball was in the front bunker. He hit it, but then realised it was a practice ball from the adjacent range. With a penalty shot and a three-putt, he wound up with a triple bogey.
Daly was annoyed, then hit his second on the par-five 11th into the water. Then he hit another into the lake. And another. And another. The final tally was seven balls, and it might have been more except that he had none left in his bag.
Daly turned over his scorecard to Hunter Mahan and Craig Parry and walked off the course. Daly later said on Twitter, "when u run out of balls u run out of balls. yes, I shook my player's partners hands & signed my card w/rules official."
In 2002, Daly threw his putter into the pond and failed to sign for a 78 at the Australian PGA, and he was fine $5,600. Two years ago, he smashed a spectator's camera into a tree at Royal Sydney during the Australian Open.
"You always hear a story about John Daly doing something," Mahan said. "Right in the middle of it. Great."
Parry came to Daly's defence, saying he had the right club to reach the 11th green, but failed to realize the strength of the wind.
Tour officials sounded as though they had seen enough. Brian Thorburn, chief executive of the PGA of Australia, said it was withdrawing its invitation for Daly to play in the Australian PGA in two weeks at Coolum.
But today was a welcome sight for Woods. He caught the worst of the weather, facing a 20mph wind. Good scores were posted earlier in the day, starting with the 65 by Lyle.
Johnson had a sluggish start, only to turn it around with five straight birdies.
Woods was in serious trouble off the tee only once, and hit a bullet under a tree and through the green that allowed him to save par on the third hole.
This is an important stretch for Woods, who is playing three times in four weeks, his most golf activity since the spring. "I'm in a good spot," Woods said. "Hopefully, the weather will be calm in the morning."