Woods shakes off bug to roar into picture

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Tiger Woods shook off a stomach upset to open the NEC World Championship ­ an event he has won for the past two years ­ with a four-under-par 66 here yesterday.

Woods tucked in just behind the pace-setter, Jim Furyk, with a bogey-free round. He was only one under after 13 holes, but then produced a hat-trick of birdies to put himself alongside the Dane Thomas Bjorn in the clubhouse.

"I've lost nine pounds in the last eight days ­ first the heat in Atlanta [at the Masters] and then the food poisoning," he said. "I should be able to start putting it back on now.

"I came with a lot of confidence because I played really well last Sunday in the PGA. I missed only one shot and knew if I could swing it the same I would be OK and I was able to do it."

The Firestone Country Club was where Woods won by 11 a year ago, even finishing with a birdie in near-total darkness after a earlier rain delay. There was more rain yesterday, and in the soft conditions the scoring was superb for a par-70 course measuring 7,139 yards.

Colin Montgomerie reached four under after 15, but then bogeyed the long 16th to fall back alongside the Ryder Cup hopeful Ian Poulter. The Luton golfer did exactly the same on the 625-yard 16th, hitting his third shot into the back bunker. But he came back to birdie the last.

Darren Clarke was also three under with two to go, having made a flying start with an eagle on the 497-yard second and birdie on the next.

The clash of the day from a European Ryder Cup perspective was between Phillip Price and Miguel Angel Jimenez, respectively 10th and 11th in the table. Both shot 70, Price holing a 12-foot birdie putt on the last.

Paul McGinley, eighth in the cup standings, was happy with his two-under 68, taking him as it did a step closer to securing his cup debut.