Tiger Woods did not like what he saw as he watched his approach at No. 18. He made par on the hole and finished the round tied for third place.

Tiger finds Kapalua’s
grain a pain

KAPALUA, Maui » Tiger Woods can blast away from the tee box with the best of them. Just don't ask him to hit uphill into the grain of the Plantation Course greens, because he can't get there from here.

Woods needed a healthy 32 putts yesterday to complete his first round of the $5.3 million Mercedes Championships. Normally, that wouldn't get you to the top of the leaderboard. The winner of a tournament usually hits about 100 putts for a four-round tournament.

But Woods was so solid from tee to green, he was able to salvage a 5-under 68 and a tie for third entering today's second round. He trails leader Vijay Singh by two shots.

"Being here before, you kind of get an idea for how they are going to play," Woods said with plenty of frustration in his voice. He finished second on the PGA Tour in putting last year with a 1.724 average a hole. "It's so different, I've never seen them like this before, where they are this slow and this grainy.

"They are not cutting them this year for the first time, so hence there's a lot more grain on them. The uphill, in-the-grain putts, man, like I told (caddy) Steve (Williams), 'Did I make a big enough turn there?' It's just unreal. You can hear the ball bouncing on the grass, just the way it is."

Woods wasn't alone in his assessment of the greens. Singh said several times the last few days that he had never seen so much grass on the putting surfaces. The stempmeter reading for yesterday's round was a nine. The average for a PGA Tour event is an 11, with 13 a number used in major events.

"I felt like I played well," Woods said. "I hit a lot of good shots and didn't really make a lot of putts. I took care of the par-5s and hit a few in there close and just had some 3-, 4-, 5-footers in there for birdie. But outside of those, I didn't really make any putts."

Woods did hit the ball well off the tee, missing only one fairway and one green. He said on Wednesday that he finally found himself toward the latter part of the season. Woods won a tournament in Japan and his own offseason event in California, but managed only one victory on the PGA Tour in 2004.

But if yesterday's tee-to-green performance is any indication, Woods needs only a hot putter to win this event for the second time since it moved to Kapalua in 1999.

"It's just the way I've been playing, a continuation if you will," Woods said. "Since the end of last year and then even my off time, I've been playing a lot and hit the ball the same way. This is no different than how I've been hitting it. And further validating it in competition is even better."

Woods birdied the third hole with a 4-footer, but missed a similar-length putt for par on the fourth. He birdied both par-5s on the front and another on the back. Two of his birdie putts on the back nine were from less than 2 feet. A bad approach on the par-5 18th and then a poor chip left him with a par on the 663-yard closing hole.

"It's nice to not have to work so hard to shoot a low number," Woods said. "If I putt the way I normally do, that's three or four shots right there. So from that standpoint, it's very encouraging.

"I felt like I hit the ball better than (the score he finished with). I hit it in there close enough where I had a bunch of 8- to 10-footers for birdie and I didn't make them. You know, that's awfully frustrating when you hit the ball in there that close and not make those putts. I don't know, maybe I've got to bring out my Arnold Palmer stroke or something."

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