Woods gives a small wave after a birdie on the second hole,
during the first round of the Bridgestone Invitational golf
tournament, Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Akron, Ohio.
AKRON, Ohio —
Tiger Woods began his title defense in the Bridgestone
Invitational with a perfect tee shot down the middle of the
fairway and a shot that covered the flag until it settled 10 feet
behind the hole. Three putts later, he walked off with a bogey.
Another day of
trying to find his game? Not quite.
He followed with
six birdies to atone for a few more mistakes, and wound up with a
2-under 68 that at least gave him hope that his game was turning
Marc Leishman had
eight birdies in his round of 64 to take a one-shot lead after one
day at Firestone, and more than one-third of the field in this
World Golf Championship broke par in soft, relatively gentle
Even so, Woods
remained the focus.
"I feel like
I made some progress," Woods said. "As I said, this is
only my seventh round back. So it's just going to take a little
time. I'm starting to get in the flow of things. If you look at my
iron shots into the holes today, a majority of them were pin-high.
So I'm starting to get the feel back in my hands and get my
trajectory under control."
Then again, Woods
also started well at the British Open two weeks ago. He opened
with a 69, but then barely made the cut and finished 69th at the
end of the week.
Moore watches his birdie putt miss on the 10th hole during
the first round of the Bridgestone Invitational golf
tournament Thursday, July 31, 2014, at Firestone Country
Club in Akron, Ohio.
For such a big
tournament, the Bridgestone Invitational got off to a quiet start.
Most of the
attention was on Woods and his game, on who might make the Ryder
Cup team, on who appears to be rounding into form for the PGA
Championship, and on Dustin Johnson announcing he was taking a
leave from golf for what he called "personal challenge"
that will require "professional help."
Here are five
things to look for going into Friday's second round at Firestone.
TIGER WOODS: This
is only the third tournament for Woods since returning from his
three-month break to recover from back surgery, so the sample size
is small. But the second round is shaping up as an important one.
Thursday was only the third time this year Woods opened with a
round in the 60s (Dubai, British Open), and he failed to break par
in the second round of both events.
What excited him
about the first round is that he followed his two bogeys and one
double bogey with birdies. It's easier to clean up mistakes than
to make birdies, so Woods was encouraged by making six birdies,
two of them from tap-in range.
affable Australian only has one PGA Tour victory, though he has
been on a decent run. Leishman tied for eighth at Congressional a
month ago, and then tied for fifth in the British Open in his
Leishman watches his tee shot on the ninth hole during the
first round of the Bridgestone Invitational golf tournament
Thursday, July 31, 2014, at Firestone Country Club in Akron,
He found the
right recipe for Firestone — keep the ball in the short grass.
"I drove the
ball well. It makes this course a lot easier when you're on the
fairway," Leishman said. "It's pretty tough when you're
playing from the rough. Then, I hit my irons really well and was
rolling the ball awesome. So it's a pretty good combination for a
tough golf course like this, something I can hopefully keep
RYDER CUP: Ryan
Moore, Charl Schwartzel and Justin Rose each were one shot behind
at 66. Schwartzel is a former Masters champion. Rose won the U.S.
Open last year. The interest over Moore is what he hasn't done —
play in the Ryder Cup.
He is No. 14 in
the standings, and all it takes is one good week to play his way
onto the team. Even after a chat with Watson when he was at Royal
Liverpool didn't change Moore's mind about his chances to be in
Scotland. He'll have to earn one of the nine automatic spots.
BEWARE THE AILING
GOLFER: Phil Mickelson didn't arrive at Firestone until Wednesday
night because he is recovering from strep throat. He opened with a
71 and already was seven shots behind. But Lefty has a history
with playing well when sick.
He had food
poisoning the week he won at Torrey Pines in 2001. He was
hospitalized the night before he won at Doral in 2009 for his
first WGC title.
kind of slows your mind down," Mickelson said. "You
don't rush things. Sometimes you play your best golf like
The first round was interrupted by news that Johnson is taking
time away from the game to get help with his mental and emotional
state. That means he won't be at the PGA Championship. He won't be
in the FedEx Cup playoffs (he is No. 4 in the standings). And he
won't be playing the Ryder Cup.
It's a blow to
the American team not having someone with his power. Johnson went
3-0 in the last Ryder Cup at Medinah.
looked at it another way.
anything, I just hope this is the start of something really,
really positive," he said. "And I don't know what
happened. I don't know what the specifics are, nor should I know.
That's none of my business. I feel for him."