Tiger Woods used a surge in the second half of his opening round to card a four-under 66 at the Bridgestone Invitational. He was three strokes behind leader Webb Simpson after finishing the first 18 with afternoon play just getting under way.
Tiger shoots 66 at @wgc_bridgestone. Average first-round score in 7 wins here: 66. Average in 6 non-wins: 68.— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) August 1, 2013
Tiger after an opening 66 at Firestone: "For some reason with this golf course, I just see it. It's just one of those venues."— Will Gray (@WillGrayGC) August 1, 2013
The most encouraging sign for Woods throughout the round was his ball striking. He consistently hit accurate iron shots into the greens, which allowed him to post a nifty score in Round 1 despite not having a ton of success with the putter.
Let's take a look at his scorecard and recap his first round.
Round 1 Scorecard
Woods started on the back nine. All scores courtesy of the WGC's official site.
Day 1 Recap
After a disappointing weekend performance at the Open Championship a couple weeks ago, Woods began his pursuit of a fifth victory in 2013 on the back nine at Firestone Country Club. He was playing alongside Japanese rising star Hideki Matsuyama.
The seven-time Bridgestone Invitational winner got the tournament started in ideal fashion. He found the fairway off the 10th tee and then struck a laser approach shot within a couple feet. He easily converted for an opening birdie.
Woods' first stay under par didn't last long. A poor tee shot on his second hole of the day left him in the right rough. Since he couldn't reach the green from there, he had to get up and down for par. It was a challenge he couldn't meet as he gave a stroke right back.
Bittersweet start for Tiger Woods. Stone cold stiffs approach on 1st hole of day for birdie. Messy bogey on 2nd hole. #firestone— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) August 1, 2013
He had looks at birdie on each of the next two holes but wasn't able to connect on mid-range putts. Failing to capitalize at No. 13 was particularly disappointing for Woods, as he mishit a makeable putt.
Following those missed chances, he got back on track at the 14th with a well-played hole. He found the fairway with his driver, a club that rarely made it out of the bag during the season's third major, and hit another pinpoint approach shot to set himself up for birdie.
BOOM! Birdie on 14 gets him back to -1 for the day. No doubt about that one.— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) August 1, 2013
Alas, he once again failed to build on the signs of progress.
After three uneventful strokes on the par-three 15th, he headed to his first par-five opportunity of the round. Normally, that's when Woods starts making up ground on the field. That wasn't the case at No. 16, as a poor tee shot doomed him.
He found a bunker off the tee and couldn't do anything beyond pitch it out. Instead of getting aggressive, he decided to start playing the hole for par with a lay-up. It didn't pay off, as his shot into the green was poor, and he two-putted for bogey.
Tiger Woods with a bogey on his 7th hole. He's back to even par. Henrik Stenson leads at 3-under thru 8.— Eye on Golf (@EyeOnGolf) August 1, 2013
Woods finished the back nine with a pair of pars to make the turn at even.
Then the 14-time major champion started to heat up.
Where will Woods finish at Bridgestone?
He was still using the same formula that worked for him on the back side—fairway tee shots and terrific approaches—but he started doing it on a more consistent basis.
Woods birdied three of the first four holes on the front nine. In every case, he stayed out of trouble off the tee and gave himself a great look at birdie with tremendous iron play. During that stretch, it was easy to see why he's won the event so many times.
The only hole he didn't birdie during that stretch was the second. He once again failed to take advantage of a par-five opportunity. He put himself in good position with the second shot, but it got away from him from there, and he could only manage a par.
Still, it was a very solid stretch of play for Woods.
DRAINO!!! A second straight birdie for TW and he's now -3 through 13! Things are looking great now.— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) August 1, 2013
He wasn't able to maintain the birdie pace, but he continued to play solid from tee to green, avoiding any potential disaster lurking around Firestone. He dropped a trio of pars to keep himself at three under par heading to the final two holes of the day.
Woods got back on the birdie train at the eighth. The story remained the same, as he found the green with a crafty approach shot, leaving himself just a short putt to pick up another stroke. He had no problem with those throughout the round.
With 1 hole to play, Tiger has it to -4, two strokes behind Webb Simpson. Has hit every green on front side. #Bridgestone— Bob Harig (@BobHarig) August 1, 2013
Tiger Woods: 18-for-18 on putts 10' and in today. In his last regular @PGATOUR event (Memorial), he missed 15 for the week from 10' & in.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) August 1, 2013
He almost found trouble on the ninth as his tee shot sailed left. But he was able to recover with some creative shotmaking to salvage par when it could have been much worse, wrapping up a successful opening round at four under par.
Woods and Matsuyama (plus-two) are scheduled to tee off at 1:10 p.m. ET on Friday.