Sport Golf

Monday 24 July 2017

'Pain-free' Tiger right in the hunt

Bernie McGuire, at Akron, Ohio

Tiger Woods could be pleased despite scrambling for much of his round in his first event in three months on day one of the WGC -- Bridgestone Invitational in Akron.

Woods only managed to hit five of 14 fairways in carding a two-under-par 68 around the tight tree-lined Firestone layout.

Australia's Adam Scott holed a 30-foot birdie putt at his penultimate hole in a 62 and ended the day one shot clear of fellow Aussie Jason Day in the $US8.5m event.

Scott continues to benefit from his switch to the long-handled putter -- and from having Woods' former caddie Steve Williams on the bag.

Woods severed ties with Williams ahead of his return to competition this week, and the 14-time Major champion has also discarded the Kiwi head cover given to him as a gift by Williams.

And while not mentioning it, Woods did seem to develop a slight limp towards the later stage of his round that included nine outward-half pars and a mix of three birdies and a bogey over his inward nine.

Proper

"As Darren (Clarke) said to me, it was good to be able to hit some proper shots again without feeling any pain," said Woods. "I didn't have any pain at all. I was pleased with the speed I was able to put on the ball.

"I'm just taking step by step and it's just fun to be out here competing again."

Rory McIlroy heads the four Irish competing in Ohio. He fought back superbly after being two-over par after four holes to sign for a two-under-par 68.

Starting at the 10th, the US Open champion birdied his eighth hole but capped his round when eagled the par-five second and then birdied the next.

"It wasn't the best of starts to be two-over early on but I managed to get it back into red numbers which was nice," he said. "I managed to stay patient even though I have a few things to work on.

"I was looking at the leaderboard and saw there were a lot of guys going under par, so I just wanted to get myself back in red figures."

Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington each signed for a 71.

Harrington had been two-over par at the turn but came home sandwiching a 15th-hole birdie among eight pars.

"There was some good and bad out there, that's about it really," he said.

"It was just one of those days, a 71. It was a good day for scoring, and while conditions were good out there, I just didn't hit it close enough.

"I was pleased to stick in there and was pretty good mentally, so there was no frustration really."

McDowell was out two groups ahead of McIlroy but it was a drive from the group in between that upset the former US Open winner's play.

"On my 12th hole I missed it left off the tee and laid it up but right on my backswing, one of the tee shots from the boys behind landed on the fairway," said McDowell in carding a one-over par 71.

"That just distracted me for a second and I thinned a lob-wedge over the back of the green and made double there. It just took my focus for a millisecond."

McDowell proceeded to 'thin' his shot through the green on route to a double bogey, and after bogeying the last, the Portrush man said he was heading to the range to sort out his driver.

"I need to go and have a look at my driver and see what is going on as I'm not driving it all that well," he said.

"It was just one of those rounds where I needed to hit a bit more fairways because my iron play was solid, and I rolled it well on the greens.

"But I just got nothing out of the round."

British Open champion Darren Clarke struggled badly despite holing his second shot from the fairway for eagle at eight. The Royal St George's hero dropped four shots over his closing three holes in a round of a seven-over par 77.

WGC -Bridgestone Invitational,

Live, Sky Sports 2, 7.0

Irish Independent

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