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Tiger off to solid start as Kang shoots blistering 64

Tiger Woods made an encouraging start to his 2011 season without playing at his very best, firing a three-under-par 69 in yesterday's opening round at the Farmers Insurance Open.

With the first winless season of his career now behind him, the former world No 1 recorded three birdies and no bogeys on a near-perfect day for scoring on the Southern California coastline.

A six-times winner of the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, Woods failed to birdie either of the two-par-fives on his outward nine before picking up two shots after the turn.

That left him five strokes off the Korean Sunghoon Kang's blistering 64, which put him in the early clubhouse lead.

Americans Rickie Fowler and Alex Prugh were a shot further back on 65, with Chris Kirk on 66.

Back at Torrey Pines for the first time since his play-off win at the 2008 US Open, Woods teed off on the back nine and made his first birdie at the par-three 12th.

With hardly a breath of wind to bother the golfers, it seemed likely Woods would pick up at least two more shots before the turn, but wayward drives at the par-five 14th and 18th cost him birdie chances.

Watched by a surprisingly small gallery numbering around 200, Woods birdied the second and then got to three-under after sinking a 25-footer at the par-three sixth.

He lipped out with a birdie attempt from 10 feet at the par-four seventh and failed to birdie the par-five ninth (his last) after driving into a fairway bunker.

Meanwhile, life has been a dizzying whirlwind for Venezuela's Jhonattan Vegas since his astonishing breakthrough in on the US PGA Tour, but his over-riding goal remains in sharp focus.

The 26-year-old became the first rookie to win the Bob Hope Classic in more than a half-century with a play-off victory last Sunday, an achievement that sparked jubilant celebration in his soccer-mad homeland.

Although Venezuela president Hugo Chavez has frequently disparaged golf as an elitist sport played on land that would be better used to build houses for the poor, Vegas is eager to prove that golf can be accessible for all.

"That's really what I want to accomplish in life, to bring the game to everyone in Venezuela so everyone has the opportunity to succeed like I did," Vegas said at Torrey Pines yesterday.

Vegas opened his San Diego account with a promising three-under-par 69.

Farmers Insurance Open,

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Irish Independent