Couples on song at Bay Hill

Westwood hot on heels of leaders after opening 66

Last Updated: 14/03/08 12:41am

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Couples: Share of lead

Couples: Share of lead

Sky Bet

Fred Couples rolled back the years with a sparkling 65 to claim a share of the lead after the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

First round leaders: (US unless stated) F Couples -5 J Henry -5 L Glover -4 T Lehman -4 V Singh (Fij) -4 L Westwood (Eng) -4

The 48-year-old produced six birdies and just one dropped shot as he pulled one clear of the field with compatriot JJ Henry on five under.

Lee Westwood lead the European challenge and was one of four men to finish the day just a stroke adrift of the leaders following his 66 - the Englishman joined by defending champion Vijay Singh and Americans Tom Lehman and Lucas Glover.

Jim Furyk and German Alex Cejka were amongst a further five players sat two back of the lead.

However, it was a largely frustrating day for world number one Tiger Woods who began his pursuit for a ninth win in ten outings with a level-par 70.

Woods was critical of the greens at the Bay Hill Club before the first round, but conceded it was his iron-play that let him down on Thursday as he managed only two birdies and two bogeys.

"I just did not hit my irons very well," he stated. "I missed some greens that I don't normally miss.

"I missed one with a sand wedge, one with a pitching wedge - mistakes I don't normally make.

"I didn't feel comfortable with my irons. I didn't really struggle with distance control but I couldn't get the ball shaped to start on the right line."

Tough course

However, Couples had no such complaints and could barely keep the smile of his face after his superb opening efforts.

"That was a good round on a very, very tough course," said the 1992 Masters champion.

"There have been a few years where I've played where I haven't had much fun playing because I can't keep any pace."

Colin Montgomerie, who is playing this week on a sponsors' invite, opened his challenge with a disappointing 72, but was in good company with the likes of Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter and Geoff Ogilvy all shooting the same score.

It proved an even more depressing day for Englishmen Luke Donald (+4), David Howell (+4) and Paul Casey (+5) who all now face an uphill struggle just to make the cut.

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