August 20, 2015

Tiger begins Wyndham Championship on a high note

Tiger Woods carded seven birdies and only one bogey Thursday to post a season-best 6-under-par 64 in the first round of the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina.

An early starter, Tiger was tied for fifth, two strokes behind leader William McGirt at the end of his round.

It was Woods’ lowest score on the PGA TOUR since shooting 61 in the second round of the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The round also marked his best start in an event since the 2012 Deutsche Bank Championship, when Tiger opened with a 64.

“Finally nice to get something out of a round,” Woods said afterward. “The crowd was electric, especially early.”

Playing in the tournament for the first time, Woods rode a hot putter for most of round in the warm, overcast round. Paired with Brooks Koepka and Hideki Matsuyama, Tiger began on the par-4 10th hole and immediately pumped up the large gallery. After coming up short-left of the green with his approach, Woods hit a flop shot for a birdie.

“That was a loud roar,” Koepka said. “Haven’t heard one that loud in a long time.”

Wearing a turquoise-colored hat for the first time in competition, Woods made a mess of the par-4 11th. He drove into the right rough, came up short with his second shot, failed to reach the green with his third and managed to get up-and-down to save bogey.

Following a long two-putt par at the par-3 12th, Tiger hit a beautiful approach shot to the par-4 13th — the ball settling four feet from the pin — and converted for birdie. After another long two-putt par at the par-4 14th, Woods reached the par-5 15th in two and two-putted for a birdie.

Taking advantage of the lift, clean and place rule due to heavy recent rains, Woods escaped the par-3 16th with a two-putt par, making a tough six-foot save. He gave himself a good birdie chance at the par-4 17th but was unable to capitalize, then closed out the side by draining a 10-foot birdie putt at the par-4 18th to make the turn at 3-under 32.

Tiger used only 12 putts on his first nine holes.

Moving to the par-4 first hole, Woods hit another quality approach shot six feet from the pin and poured in the birdie putt. He made a good two-putt par at the par-4 second, where he left his birdie attempt eight feet short. At the par-3 third, he just missed his birdie bid.

Tiger hit a nice approach within 11 feet of the cup at the par-4 fourth and started walking early, thinking he had misread the putt. But the ball found the hole for birdie, drawing a shrug and big smile from Woods.

Tiger then made it two in a row with a long two-putt birdie from the left fringe at the par-5 fifth. It didn’t come easily, with Woods having to negotiate an eight-foot putt for his birdie.

He nearly made it three straight at the par-4 sixth, where he flagged his second shot six feet from the pin, but the birdie try spun around the cup and refused to drop. Tiger finished the side with three consecutive pars, making a clutch save at the par-4 ninth. His approach shot wound up short of the green, where he elected to putt over a large ridge. The ball rolled 10 feet past the hole, and Woods cleaned it up to complete a satisfying round.

Speaking afterward, Tiger talked about how much he enjoyed the support and enthusiasm of the fans and the small-town atmosphere at Sedgefield Country Club.

“I love that about tournaments like this,” he said. “It’s a nice small ballpark. People are very intimate and very close. It’s fun.”

Tiger finished the day by hitting seven of 14 fairways, 14 of 18 greens and using 26 putts.

He starts his second round Friday at 12:50 p.m. ET on the first tee with Koepka and Matsuyama.

Woods needs to win this week or possibly finish solo second to qualify for The Barclays next week, the first event of the FedExCup Playoffs.