|Korea’s Noh Seung-yul lines up a putt on the fifth green on Thursday. ( AFP-Yonhap)|
Not just from back surgery, but from making bogeys.
Woods bounced back with birdies all three times that he made mistakes, opening with a 2-under 68 on a soft, gentle day for scoring at Firestone. It left him four shots behind Marc Leishman of Australia, and hopeful that this time he can build on a solid start.
Woods opened with a 69 at the British Open two weeks ago, only to plunge down the leaderboard the rest of the week at Royal Liverpool.
“I hit a lot of good shots,” Woods said. “I dropped shots at three holes out there today (and) got it right back on the very next hole.”
For so many players, the opening round of this World Golf Championship felt like either a warmup or an audition for bigger events to follow. Ryan Moore was among three players at 65, a good start for someone looking for one big week to get him on the Ryder Cup team.
Two more Ryder Cup hopefuls ― Patrick Reed and Francesco Molinari of Italy ― were among those another shot back.
British Open champion Rory McIlroy, who next week will chase his second straight major, was among the leaders until not paying attention to packed sand in a bunker that sent him to a double bogey late in his round. He still wound up with a 69.
Leishman has quietly gone about his work in reasonable form, with top 10s recently at Congressional and Royal Liverpool. He had the perfect formula for Firestone, a big golf course where good scores are available by keeping the ball in play.
“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 going.”
Charl Schwartzel and Justin Rose joined Moore one shot out of the lead.
Woods said only a mild breeze and soft conditions from overnight rain allowed for scoring, though he noted that no one went terribly low.
The 64 by Leishman seemed like a good score, so maybe Woods was basing that on his own experience at a course where he has won eight times.