Golf

Big finish has Tiger within 3 at CIMB

Tiger Woods towels down during the first round of the CIMB Classic at Kuala Lumpur.
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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP)

It was hot, humid, and his putts were lipping out. Tiger Woods felt as if he had been run over halfway through his first round in Malaysia since winning the 1999 World Cup on the same course.

Only one way to fix that: The 14-time major winner rolled in five birdies on the back nine on Thursday and finished with a 5-under-par 66 to trail first-round leader Troy Matteson by three shots.

Matteson had eight birdies in his 63 to take a one-stroke lead over fellow Americans Jeff Overton, Brian Harman and Robert Garrigus.

Woods, in the last pairing, with Australia's Marcus Fraser, knew the numbers to target early in his round. After birdies at the third and fifth holes, Woods missed two short putts for par at the eighth and ninth and seemed frustrated, frequently wiping his face and neck with a white towel and glaring after the balls that didn't drop in the cup.

Knowing it was going to take a total of something like 20 under to win the tournament on the 6,909-yard Mines Resort and Golf Club course, Woods decided the only way back into contention was to be aggressive.

''It's a different type of mindset,'' he said. ''Going out there and shooting even par on that front nine, I just felt like I got run over.''

He said midway through the round he wasn't bothered by the stifling humidity and 91-degree weather, or narrowly missing two birdie attempts before the two putts for par lipped out.

''What is frustrating is turning at even par and I'm eight back,'' he said.

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''Three or 4 under par was my number on the back nine. If I could shoot that, I'm still right in the ballgame. I happened to get one more, which was a bonus.''

Woods knew he could have shot a score that would have put him better than tied for seventh — he even missed a birdie putt from about 10 feet on the 18th — but he was happy with how he hit his driver and was generally pleased with his game.

''I really started hitting the ball quite well at the end of the front nine. I happened to miss two short putts . . . but also the two putts I hit were good putts at 8 and 9.'' he said. ''Realistically it could have been 7 or 8 (under). But even at the turn, and to still post 5 (under), it was a nice little comeback.

''It's going to take 20-plus this week to win the tournament, so I've got to be aggressive and we've got to go get it.''

A lightning and thunderstorm started dumping rain on the course less than an hour after play ended. With the forecast for more rain on Friday, organizers decided to move tee times ahead by 40 minutes in the second round.

Americans held five of the top six spots, with Tom Gilles behind the leading four after a 65. He was tied at 6 under with India's Gaganjeet Bhullar, who made an eagle on the par-5 17th and had the lowest score among the Asian Tour players.

''These are the only few weeks where we get to play with these (PGA Tour) guys,'' Bhullar said. ''It really motivates us, and I think it is very important for Asian Tour players that somebody should go up and make it interesting. You never know, it could be an Asian Tour player's week.''

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The group tied with Woods at 5 under included Malaysian qualifier Danny Chia, Australia's Greg Chalmers, South African Jbe' Kruger and Americans J.B Holmes and Ricky Barnes.

Matteson had missed the cut in his last two PGA Tour starts and had failed to break par in any of his past four competitive rounds. But he posted his lowest score since a 61 at the John Deere Classic in July, when he finished second after a playoff in his best result of the season.

He had birdies on Nos. 2, 3, 6 and 11 and finished with four straight, closing his round by holing his third shot from the greenside bunker on the par-4 18th.

''The pin is really tricky on 18. I knew I'd be doing good if I could leave myself seven or eight feet for par, and it bounced and slam-dunked in the hole,'' Matteson said. ''That's the first time all year the ball has managed to hit the pin and stay in the hole.''

Overton, who last year set the tournament record low round with a 62 and finished runner-up here, had a bogey-free 64 that included an eagle on the drivable 292-yard 15th, the shortest par 4 on the course.

''All of a sudden I made about a 20-footer for eagle, basically drove the green, and when that went in it was really exciting,'' he said. ''It was just an all-around fun day.''

The co-sanctioned $6.1 million CIMB Classic doesn't count as an official PGA tournament this year, but will be added to the schedule in 2013.

Defending champion Bo Van Pelt, with a 70, was coming off a win last week at the Perth International in Australia. Jason Dufner, who was second to Van Pelt last week, was 3 under and in a share of 16th with 2010 CIMB champion Ben Crane.

Tagged: Tiger Woods, Bo Van Pelt, Troy Matteson

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