Woods birdie blitz wows big crowds in Malaysia

Tiger Woods wowed huge crowds at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia as he ripped five birdies over his last nine holes to lie three shots off the lead after the first round on Thursday.

The 14-time Major-winner, who has surged back to world number two after a damaging sex scandal and injury, dropped shots on eight and nine but recovered to card 66 on the par-71 course, trailing leader Troy Matteson.

On a hot, humid and low-scoring day, Matteson's scorching 63 was only good enough for a one-shot lead over Brian Harman, Jeff Overton and Robert Garrigus, with Gaganjeet Bhullar and Tom Gillis one more back on six-under.

Woods was among six players tied on five-under at Kuala Lumpur's Mines Resort and Golf Club, where he lifted golf's World Cup with Mark O'Meara on his previous visit way back in 1999.

His round appeared headed for mediocrity after consecutive lip-out bogeys on eight and nine, but after turning at level par a 20-foot birdie putt on the 10th sparked a sudden change in fortunes.

Another birdie at 11, near-misses at 13 and 14 and three birdies in a row from 15 to 17 put the American great firmly in contention in the no-cut, US$6.1 million event, and delighted his hundreds of following fans.

"Turning at even par, I felt like I got run over there," Woods said. "It felt like I had to shoot at least three or four under par on that back nine and I happened to get one more which was nice.

"It's going to take something 20-plus (under par) this week to win the tournament, so you've got to be aggressive and got to go and get it."

A giant gallery of about 1,000 spectators had crammed the hillside and pathway at the first tee and roared with appreciation as Woods began his first tournament in Asia in two years.

In punishing midday heat, the 36-year-old solidly parred the first two holes and then went one under on the par-five third with a 250-yard approach shot to just off the green, followed by a chip to two feet.

Woods passed up a nine-foot birdie putt on the next hole, but a precision 120-yard pitch to within two feet put him two under par on the par-four fifth.

As playing partner Marcus Fraser struggled to bogey with two botched iron shots on the sixth, Woods grimaced with frustration as he dropped a short pitch 12 feet from the pin and then left his putt short.

A 15-foot birdie putt on the par-three seventh trickled just wide, and after driving left of the fairway on the eighth a valiant shot over a high overhanging tree left him in a grassy hollow just off the green.

A sizzling chip missed by a matter of inches, but Woods was staggered when his three-foot par putt lipped out for his first bogey.

And it was deja vu on the ninth as Woods bunkered his approach, escaped to within three feet but then lipped out again to drop back to even par in front of a packed clubhouse gallery.

But a rolling, 20-foot putt for birdie on 10 revved up his round, and the reinvigorated Woods birdied again on par-five 11 after reaching the green in two shots.

His putting radar was marginally askew with close birdie attempts from 20 and 18 feet on the 13th and 14th, but he blasted out of a bunker to go three under par in style on the 15th hole.

A stunning tee shot to within a few feet on the par-three 16th put Woods at four under, and he flirted with an eagle with his chip on the 17th before settling for his third birdie in a row.

An approach to within 10 feet drew loud applause from big crowds around the 18th hole, but Woods's ultra-slow, downhill birdie putt rolled wide.

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