-- The gallery crammed around the first tee and stood elbow-to-elbow on a clubhouse balcony to get a glimpse of Tiger Woods, playing in his first tournament today since his knee surgery.
It took a while to see the kind of play they were expecting.
Woods hit only two fairways on the front nine -- leading to his only two birdies -- and was 1 under par through nine holes at the Buick Invitational when the first round, already delayed by fog, was suspended by rain.
Arron Oberholser was at 6 under par through 16 holes, although none of the 156 players completed the round.
Woods had to wait two months to return to competition, then another four hours as a soupy fog covered Torrey Pines and made it impossible to see the green on a couple of par 3s along the Pacific Ocean.
With his tee time minutes away, Woods's entourage made its way along a path to the first tee on the North Course, but Woods was not part of the group. He ducked into the gallery and walked virtually unnoticed.
"I needed some space," he joked.
He found plenty of that once his round started. No sooner was his tee shot in the air that he extended his right arm and yelled, "Fore!" as his ball sailed into the trees. He failed to birdie the par-5 opening hole when he flubbed a chip.
Woods didn't appear to have any problem with his left knee, even crouching for a long time to study the line of his putts.
However, there was clearly some rust in his game -- not to mention frustration.
Woods missed the second fairway to the left, flew the green on the par-3 third hole, then missed the fairway to the right on No. 4. His approach from thick grass was in trouble as soon as it left his club.
"Darn it! Bite! Bite!" he screamed.
Instead, the ball went into the gallery, some 30 feet beyond the hole. His chip barely made it to the green, and Woods angrily tossed his wedge at the bag before the ball stopped rolling. He made bogey to go 1 over, then slowly got back into form.
Woods hit his first fairway at No. 5, and a punch shot into 15 feet set up his first birdie. Two holes later, however, another drive sailed into the thick grass and Woods turned toward the Pacific and cursed again.
That was the last of the damage -- no more bogeys the rest of the round. He spun back an approach to six feet for birdie on No. 8 to get to 1 under, but wasted another chance on a par 5 when his drive at No. 9 was in grass so deep he could barely see the ball.
His knee should get a real test Friday.
Woods will have to finish his nine holes in the morning, then play his second round on the tougher South Course.
Oberholser is a rookie on the PGA Tour, but he is familiar with Woods. In Woods's final year at Stanford, he and Oberholser (San Jose State) traded spots atop the amateur rankings until Woods finished the year ahead.
"Having him back out here is nice," Oberholser said. "It's nice to be able to play against the best player in the world."
PGA Tour rules official Mark Russell said players would resume the first round at 7:30 a.m., local time, although that won't be easy.
The practice range is small at Torrey Pines, and even though officials plan to erect lights in the morning, only about 40 players can hit balls at the same time.
"This is something we don't normally deal with," Russell said.
The fog wasn't terribly thick except for the few holes along the ocean, but that was enough to stop play. "The fog would hit two or three holes, but the other 33 holes you could play," Russell said. "It was unusual."
The only normal part of the first round was seeing Woods in a tournament, something the tour had been missing.
* AUSTRALIA: Ernie Els entertained thoughts of breaking 60. He settled for the lead.
The South African star, seeking his fourth victory of the year, shot an 8-under 64 to take a one-stroke lead in the Johnnie Walker Classic in Perth. Els played his first nine holes in 7-under 29 and reached 8 under with a birdie on No. 1.