Early birdie for Tiger at PGA Championship

Rochester: Tiger Woods made an encouraging start in his bid to end a five-year title drought at the majors, making a birdie on his fourth hole to sit two strokes off the early pace at the PGA Championship on Thursday.

On a glorious sunny morning at Oak Hill Country Club, Woods laid up in two after taking an iron off the tee at the par-five 13th before hitting a stunning approach to a foot short of the cup for a tap-in putt.

That put the four-times champion among a large contingent at one under, two behind fellow Americans Robert Garrigus and David Toms.

PGA Tour journeyman Garrigus, who teed off in the second group of the day at the 10th, had completed 11 holes while Toms, winner of the 2001 PGA Championship, was through seven.

Thailand`s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, competing in just his second major, was at two under after 10 holes, level with Americans Rickie Fowler, Tommy Gainey and Kevin Streelman, Canadian David Hearn and Austria`s Bernd Wiesberger.

Fowler had completed eight holes, Gainey nine, Streelman four, Hearn nine and Wiesberger three on a par-70 East Course softened by two inches of rain overnight.

The biggest galleries of the morning, however, were following Woods who had started out at the par-four 10th in the company of former champions Keegan Bradley and Davis Love III.

The world number one salvaged par on his first hole after finding the first cut of rough on the right off the tee and ending up just short of the green with his approach.

Woods chipped eight feet past the hole but sank the slick putt coming back.


He had to get up and down from tangly greenside rough at the par-three 11th before making a rock-solid, two-putt par at the 12th where he took an iron off the tee and hit his second to 35 feet below the hole.

Woods came into this week as a heavy favorite after coasting to his 79th PGA Tour victory in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday.

Though he has not claimed a major title since the 2008 U.S. Open, his runaway triumph last week suggested every component of his game is in top order.

"Any time you can go into a major tournament, or any tournament, with a win under your belt it`s nice," Woods said. "It validates what you`re working on and you have some nice momentum going in there."

Among the late starters on Thursday was defending champion Rory McIlroy, who is seeking to turn his game around after a poor year by his standards.

McIlroy was set to tee off from the first at 1.25 pm (1725 GMT) in the company of former winners Vijay Singh of Fiji (1998) and Germany`s Martin Kaymer (2010).

Also setting off in the afternoon was the marquee group of this year`s major winners - Australian Adam Scott (Masters), Englishman Justin Rose (U.S. Open) and American Phil Mickelson (British Open).