August 3, 2006

Weir leads at Buick with Singh, Woods chasing

By Steve Keating

GRAND BLANC, Michigan (Reuters) - Former U.S. Masters
champion Mike Weir birdied five of his final six holes to card
a nine-under-par 63 and take the early first round lead at the
Buick Open on Thursday.

Defending champion Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods, fresh off
his emotional victory at the British Open, were also among the
early starters taking advantage of the ideal scoring conditions
to settle in near the top the leaderboard.

Singh, who is trying for an unprecedented Buick treble,
mixed nine birdies with a single bogey for an eight-under 64 to
sit one back of Weir and a shot clear of a trio of Americans,
Joe Durant, Brett Quigley and 1995 champion Woody Austin.

Woods had gone low at the Warwick Hills Country Club
before, firing a course record equalling 61 in 2005 and early
in his round looked poised to rewrite the record books before
signing for a six-under 66.

Playing the back nine first, the world number one got an
overcast day off to the brightest possible start by reeling off
five straight birdies to reach the turn in five-under before
torrential rains swept across northern Michigan.

When play resumed following a two-hour delay Woods
immediately birdied the par-five first but the world number
one's charge suddenly stalled and he strung together five
consecutive pars before a birdie, bogey, par close to his

Weir's 63 matched his lowest round of the year set in the
opening round at Pebble Beach.

The Canadian, who grew up just 90 minutes from Grand Blanc
across the border in Brights Grove, Ontario, had a bogey free
round, his most difficult shot of the day a 30-foot putt at the
third for his first birdie.

Chasing his first title in two years, Weir surged top the
leaderboard with five straight birdies from the 13th before
closing out his round with a routine par.

"You know going into this tournament that you're going to
have to be close to 20-under -- or more now that the course is
very soft like it is," Weir told reporters.

"That's always in the back of you're mind even before you
start. You have to look at the board and know that. I knew I
felt good so I wanted to stay aggressive.

"I think the key on this golf course is to drive it in the
fairway and I did that well today.

"I hit a lot of fairways, hit a lot of close irons. My
first birdie putt was the longest putt I had to make all day."