Thursday, July 17, 2014
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Karlsson sets early pace as Woods treads water

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[July 17, 2014]  By Tony Jimenez
 
 HOYLAKE England (Reuters) - Former European number one Robert Karlsson set a sizzling early pace on a blisteringly hot day at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club by firing a three-under-par 69 in the 143rd British Open on Thursday.

While the 6ft-5in (1.95m) Swede was inching his way to the top of the leaderboard alongside Spain's Sergio Garcia and American Rickie Fowler, who had both played eight holes, 14-times major champion Tiger Woods was treading water on the opening day.

Woods, featuring in only his third competitive round after undergoing back surgery in March, dropped a stroke at the first hole after finding a greenside bunker with his approach.

The former world number one also bogeyed the second but he made partial amends by rolling in an eight-foot putt for his first birdie of the championship at the fifth.

Interest in Woods was running high with American television network ESPN devoting the whole of its ESPN3 digital channel to coverage of him.

There was little sign of the fireworks to follow for Karlsson when he limped to the turn in 36, one over par, on a day of light winds on the Wirral.

European's money-list winner in 2008 then suddenly turned on the turbo-charger on the homeward journey, picking up four birdies in seven holes from the 10th.

Karlsson, who missed the cut on the last two occasions he competed in the third major of the season, would have led on his own but a long-range birdie putt at the 18th lipped out.

Among the early starters making good progress were former world number one Rory McIlroy, who was two under after five holes, and U.S. Ryder Cup stalwart Jim Furyk, who was on the same mark through the turn.

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Englishman David Howell, playing with Karlsson and 2001 champion David Duval in the day's first match, enjoyed the honor of striking the first shot of the tournament.

Howell bogeyed the opening hole and went on to card a level-par 72, one better than American Duval.

Title holder Phil Mickelson launches his campaign at 2:05 p.m. local time (1305 GMT) in a three-ball with twice former winner Ernie Els and U.S. Masters champion Bubba Watson.

(Editing by John O'Brien)

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