If Tiger Woods plans on claiming his second Deutsche Bank Championship, he’s going to have his work cut out for him thanks to a historic first-round performance from his playing partner.
The world’s top-ranked golfer carded a solid three-under score of 68 at the TPC Boston course, sitting in a tie for 18th place at the time of his finish. There were plenty of groups still remaining on the course when Woods concluded his round, with his group being among the earliest to tee off at the Norton, Mass., event. He carded four birdies against one bogey, missing multiple makeable birdie putts for a lower score.
Here is a look at a hole-by-hole breakdown of how Tiger's day went.
While Woods' 68 keeps him in contention, it pales in comparison to a brilliant outing from Phil Mickelson. Playing alongside Woods and Masters champion Adam Scott, Lefty birdied seven of his first nine holes and flirted with 59 before finishing at with an eight-under score of 63.
He currently holds a one-stroke lead over Kevin Stradler. Scott fared a little worse than his fellow luminaries, carding a two-over score of 73.
Tiger undoubtedly would have preferred to have Mickelson's day, but the round had several promising signs for the 37-year-old golfer, who came into Norton with plenty of questions. Multiple times during last week's Barclays tournament Woods crumpled to the ground in pain due to a lingering back issue. According to Kevin Maguire of ESPN, the world's best said the injury was caused by a soft mattress in a hotel bed.
He's currently getting treatment two or three times a day. Throughout the week there were initial questions about whether he'd play in the event, but those were put to rest by playing in the tournament's Pro-Am on Thursday afternoon.
Combining yesterday's 18 holes with Friday's first round, the prognosis reads so far, so good with Woods' back.
Starting the day on the back nine, it took just two holes for Tiger to card his first birdie. After hitting a beautiful approach off the tee to within eight feet of the par-three 11th hole, he buried the putt to keep himself within a stroke of Mickelson early, who birdied the first two holes.
But fans didn't get a clear indication of Woods' health until the 12th tee. Like he did multiple times during Thursday's round, he stepped to the tee box and ripped a massive drive onto the fairway—almost as a not-so-subtle indication things would be just fine all day long.
Big driver @ 12 for Tiger finds fairway.— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) August 30, 2013
Woods would blow his chance at a second consecutive birdie by leaving a 12-foot putt a little bit left of the cup. That would be the first of four straight pars, missing a birdie chance on each hole. Meanwhile, Mickelson was rampaging through the TPC Boston course, opening up a gaping lead between he and Tiger en route to a 28 on the front nine.
Golf Channel's Tiger Tracker couldn't help but notice that Woods was leaving easy strokes on the table:
Another two-putt par @ 15 for Tiger. Easy scoring conditions, feel like he's leaving some out here.— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) August 30, 2013
The par streak ended after another beautiful iron approach off the tee on the 161-yard par-three 16th. Woods tapped in for birdie, getting to two-under through seven holes.
However, that momentum was quickly thwarted again by putting woes. Tiger had solid chances at both No. 17 and No. 18 to keep pace with his ascending playing partner, but he couldn't convert. A missed six-footer on the 18th had to be particularly frustrating for Woods, who nearly made the green in two on a 530-yard par five.
The back nine started by keeping the ball rolling in the wrong direction, with Woods dropping back to one under after a bogey. The first had played under par throughout the day, so it was interesting to see both Woods and Mickelson cough up a stroke at the short 365-yard hole.
The duo made their strokes back up on the par-five second hole, with Woods carding his third birdie of the day and Mickelson making an eagle. Three straight pars followed, missed putts playing the spoiler to a solid iron round. Even at two under through 14 holes, it was clear Friday wouldn't be Tiger's day:
Woods finalized his under-par scoring with a nice birdie at No. 6, one of the day's most difficult holes, and carded three pars to go into the clubhouse at 68. On a day where an overwhelming percentage of the field went low with their scores, Tiger must be disappointed.
That's especially the case considering how much is at stake this weekend.
Will Tiger Woods win the FedEx Cup?
The Deutsche Bank Championship is the second tournament of the 2013 FedEx Cup, the PGA's four-tournament version of a playoff system. Woods came into this week's event with a sizable lead over the field, his 3,059 points nearly 766 more than that of second-place Matt Kuchar. According to the PGA Tour's tracker, Woods would retain the points lead if the tournament ended when he entered the clubhouse.
After Deutsche Bank, the FedEx Cup will pare down its participants to the top 70 in the points standings for the BMW Championship. This all leads to the Tour Championship, which houses the world's 30 best golfers of the season in what essentially amounts to a winner-take-all event.
Woods, whose foundation hosts the Deutsch Bank Championship, has not won at the TPC Boston since 2006—before its inclusion in the FedEx Cup. Rory McIlroy is the defending champion in this event.
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