BMW notebook: Tiger's fire doused

Tim Cronin

Tiger Woods birdied his first two holes Thursday. Knocked in a wedge to 18 feet on his first hole, the par-4 10th, and sank it. Dropped another wedge within nine feet on his next, the par-5 11th, and sank that.

Two under par after two holes on a morning when the wind was negligible and players could put the ball in their hands via the PGA Tour's "lift, clean and place" rule.

How low could Woods go?

Only to 4-under, as it turned out. Woods didn't so much cool off as he was doused. He was 6-under and had a bogey-free round going standing on the seventh tee, his 16th hole, and was just 112 yards to the hole after dangerously cutting the corner with his tee shot.

He ended up with a double-bogey 6 and had to settle for a 4-under 67, three strokes behind leader Jonathan Byrd.

"I tried to hit a little bitty pitching wedge in there, trying to take the flier out, but I ended up catching it (flush)," Woods said. "But it was the wrong club."

That left him with a dodgy lie behind the green, and he chili-dipped his third shot. Another chip and two putts totaled 6.

"I wasn't trying to get cute on it at all and just went right underneath it," Woods said.

Numbers game

The scoring average of 70.338 was the lowest ever for a first round, and the second-lowest in Western Open history. Mitigating circumstances include the 66-player field (65 when the withdrawal of Aaron Oberholser is factored in) and the use of "lift, clean and place" in the opening round. When pros can get their hand on the ball to clean it, amazing things can happen.

The other low number, the attendance, is a bad omen. The gallery was estimated at 10,000 by the Daily Southtown, while the WGA announced a 20,000 crowd. The latter number had some people shaking their heads, given the paucity of people at key places.

At one point, Woods, Steve Stricker and K.J. Choi had only 150 people following them. When they started their round, less than that amount were waiting for them at the 10th green. The figure was slightly better, the crowd three-deep, when they finished at the ninth green, but the number was far from the usual mob that follows the world's No. 1 player.

Other signs were equally telling: Just 109 people on Pork Chop Hill by the 14th green when Justin Rose, then the tournament leader, came through. Hardly 150, exclusive of those in the glassed-in corporate suites, at the 18th green when Rose finished with a bogey.

Then there was the sound. It was very quiet. Friday attendance almost always is better than the Thursday crowd at Cog Hill, even when over 30,000 turn out on the first day. If it isn't this time, that bodes ill for the weekend, when good galleries had been expected.

Around Dubsdread

Oberholser gave it a go on Thursday and found the pain of simultaneous wrist injuries, including a fractured left hand, too much to take. He withdrew after eight holes. "I don't know if the fracture has gotten worse, but it's a case where the stuff around it is starting to have to compensate," Oberholser said. He was 3-over when he withdrew. ... This is Byrd's first lead after the first round on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he shared the lead with J.L. Lewis at the John Deere Classic. ... The Golf Channel, following the standard PGA Tour procedure of erasing previous tournament names even at the expense of reality, renamed the three Western Opens won by Tiger Woods as the BMW Championship, never mind that Buick was the courtesy car in those years.