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Woods battles heat, opens with 70 in Thailand tournament

February 6, 1997

BANGNA, Thailand (AP) _ Tiger Woods, overcome by 95-degree heat and humidity in a pro-am competition a day earlier, shot a 2-under-par 70 today in the opening round of the Asian Honda Classic.

``I made some mental mistakes as well as some physical ones,″ said Woods, who was four strokes behind leader Lee Petters of Britain. ``But it’s only one round, and anything under par is a good start.″

With temperatures again in the 90s, Woods’ gray shirt was drenched in sweat before he teed off. Members of his entourage said he was still fighting the effects of a 20-hour flight from Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Woods, receiving a reported $480,000 from tournament organizers to play in the $300,000 event, returned to the clubhouse Wednesday after playing his second shot on the 13th hole, citing heat exhaustion and food poisoning.

About 200 spectators, including his Thai mother Kultida, along with 300 media members, followed the 21-year-old star in the opening round.

``He’s great,″ said Tanet Chuntaban, 11, whose father brought him to the Thai Country Club to get a glimpse of Woods. ``I want to be just like him.″

Thailand’s top player, Prayad Marksaeng, was paired with Woods.

``I was pleased to play with him,″ said Marksaeng, who opened with a 67. ``He is an inspiration.″

Woods praised Marksaeng’s play.

``Shooting 5-under in the wind is something else,″ Woods said. ``It was great to see.″

Few people watched defending champion Steve Elkington of Australia, or two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange.

``We’re used to it,″ said Elkington, who opened with a 71. ``That’s the way it should be. He’s the man now.″

Woods has three victories in 11 pro starts on the PGA Tour. He won the season-opening Mercedes Championships and finished second last week in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. The three-time U.S. Amateur champion is scheduled to play next week in the Australian Masters.

American Clay Devers matched Marksaeng’s 67, while Strange shot a 68.

Petters, who plays under the colors of the United Arab Emirates, was injured on the 14th tee when he stepped into Pakistani partner Shakeep Hussain’s backswing. Petters’ nose was split open and he lay on the ground for five minutes, but resumed play with a birdie on the par-5 hole.

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