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Stallings sets pace, Tiger four back

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WASHINGTON — Tiger Woods, without playing at his best, moved into contention at the Memorial tournament on Thursday while fellow American Scott Stallings made a welcome return to form by charging into a one-shot lead.

Four-time champion Woods birdied three of the four par-fives in surprisingly firm and fast-running conditions at a sun-drenched Muirfield Village Golf Club to card a two-under-par 70, finishing four strokes behind Stallings.

Americans Spencer Levin, who totalled only 21 putts, and Erik Compton opened with 67s while Australian Aaron Baddeley, South African Rory Sabbatini and Argentina’s Andres Romero were among a group of seven players knotted on 69.

Woods, who won the most recent of his four titles here in 2009, was reasonably satisfied after mixing four birdies with a double-bogey at the treacherous par-four 18th, his ninth hole of the day.

“It was just a solid round today,” the 36-year-old told reporters. “It certainly could have been a lot lower, but I’m pleased with the way I hit the golf ball today. I didn’t do anything great and I didn’t do anything poorly today.

“The golf course was playing quick and the fairways were starting to chase a little bit. The greens were somewhat receptive. It’s a hell of a test out there, really.”

Stallings, who has missed the cut in his last six PGA Tour events while struggling to cope with a lingering rib injury, rocketed to the top of the leaderboard with three birdies in his last four holes.

“It was a great start,” said the 27-year-old American who won his only title on the US circuit in his rookie season at the 2011 Greenbrier Classic.

“I definitely haven’t played very good up to this point. Lackluster would be an understatement.

“But I stayed positive all throughout being injured and stuff like that. I kept telling myself that it was only a matter of time before a round like this was coming around.”

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