Sport Golf

Thursday 24 January 2019

Formidable Woods ready to 'go on a tear' in Akron - Day

Tiger Woods reacts after making birdie on the 18th green yesterday. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Tiger Woods reacts after making birdie on the 18th green yesterday. Photo: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Jason Day reckons Tiger Woods is poised to "go on a tear" again after the Californian opened his bid for a ninth WGC Bridgestone Invitational title with a 66 in Akron.

While Rory McIlroy looks to be easing ominously into top form as he opened with a bogey-free 65, Woods impressed Day with a four-under-par opening round as he chases yet another win at Firestone Country Club.

"He looks like he's close to going to go on a tear," Day said after carding a five-under 65, alongside Woods, that left him tied with McIlroy, just three shots behind leader Ian Poulter

"His iron play is unbelievable. They are on line most of the time, and if it's not on line, it's always pin-high.

"It's incredible the distance control he has out there, and if can get a few on the fairway, he will have more opportunities coming into the greens."

Poulter made eight birdies in an immaculate 62 to lead by a shot from Kyle Stanley and Rickie Fowler with McIlroy tied for seventh and Greystones' Paul Dunne 55th after hitting just five fairways in a one-over 71.

Woods hit just two more, but he had enough with his B game to post his lowest first-round score on the PGA Tour for 1,079 days.

Despite struggling off the tee on his back nine, the 14-time Major winner still found 13 greens and had eight single putts with the pick of them a 50 footer for birdie from just off the 18th green that drew a huge roar.

His monster putt helped him turn in three-under 32, and while he followed birdie twos at the fifth and seventh with a bogey at the ninth, he was pleased to grind out a score without playing his best.

"I thought a good score would be 67 or so," Woods said. "But it looks like everyone is taking advantage of it. It is soft, and it's so hot the ball is flying forever."

Asked how far he is from hitting top form, Woods added: "Well, it's nice to shoot rounds like I did at The Open and I did today; rounds where I might not be feeling the best but I am able to post a score.


"That's how you win golf tournaments. You are not going to have your best all four days. Today I wasn't as a sharp as I'd like but I ground out a score."

McIlroy was pleased to take advantage of easy early morning conditions and post a bogey-free 65.

"It was good," McIlroy said. "Honestly, we couldn't have got it easier this morning. No wind. Very soft. You had to hit very poor shots to hit it off line or miss greens.

"Hopefully it firms up a little bit for the rest of the week but it was a day where you needed to take advantage of the conditions, and I felt like I did that pretty well."

McIlroy birdied the 11th and 18th with wedge shots to 10 feet, then added birdies at the second, third and par-three fifth.

Pleased that he's now driving the ball well again, he sees improving his wedge play as key.

"It's getting there," said McIlroy, who was tied for eighth with Day, Marc Leishman, Luke List, Anirban Lahiri, Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm.

"My hands were getting away from my body on the backswing and could only hit cuts. If they put the pins on the right side of every green, I'll be really happy, but I just need to get back to that little draw I've always hit.

"I've struggled to hit that the last couple of months so I am working to get back to that.

"I feel like I brought some good stuff from the range to the golf course and I just have to keep working on it as the week goes on."

Poulter's 62 was the lowest of his PGA Tour career and while he has never finished higher than tied 13th in 13 appearances at Firestone, he was inspired to be "aggressive" by his "terrible" record in Akron.

At the Barracuda Championship in Reno, Seamus Power made five birdies in his first 13 holes at Montreaux Country Club but then bogeyed his 15th and 18th holes to score eight points in the modified stableford event.

He was tied for 13th, nine points behind clubhouse leader Ollie Schniederjans, who made six birdies and a closing eagle to fire 17 points and lead by three from Australian Aaron Baddeley.

Pádraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry were among the late starters.

WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Live, Sky Sports, 6.30

Irish Independent

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