Woods perfectly placed in FedExCup quest at East Lake

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ATLANTA, Sep 14 (Reuters) Tiger Woods stayed on track for his seventh title of the year and inaugural FedExCup honours after covering the first 11 holes in four under par at the weather-hit Tour Championship.

The world number one rattled up five birdies and one bogey to lie four shots behind pacesetting South African Tim Clark when play was suspended for the day at East Lake Golf Club.

Woods, who narrowly missed a nine-foot birdie putt at the par-three 11th shortly after the siren sounded yesterday, was well ahead of his two main FedExCup rivals Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker.

Left-hander Mickelson, one under after 12 holes, and fellow American Stricker, one over after 11, were among 20 players in the 30-strong field yet to complete the opening round of the final FedExCup playoff event.

Either Woods or Stricker would claim the 10 million dollars bonus as the inaugural FedExCup champion with victory this week, regardless of where the other players finish.

Mickelson, who skipped last week's BMW Championship won by Woods, would earn the bonus with victory at East Lake, as long as Woods finishes worse than second.

THREE-HOUR SUSPENSION The early FedExCup momentum went in Woods's favour on Thursday as he birdied the first three holes, despite sluggish greens after a three-hour suspension due to lightning and heavy rain.

He rolled in a nine-footer at the first, a 17-footer at the second and a long-range putt from 32 feet at the third before offsetting a bogey at the fifth with another birdie at the sixth.

Out in four-under 31, he parred the next two holes before play ended for the day.

''I hit it pretty good and somehow just knocked those putts in,'' 1999 champion Woods told reporters. ''I hit them up there and they bounced all over the place and somehow went in.

''This week, with the greens as slow as they are and as bumpy as they are, you've got to take the low line with your putts.'' Asked to describe his 32-footer at the par-four third, he replied: ''That putt was bouncing all over the place.

''It bounced to the right, and I thought I missed it. Then it bounced left and I thought it was going to miss left. And then somehow it wiggled back to the right up the hill and went in.'' REUTERS BJR ND1012

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