5 Things: Leishman leads; Woods T-9; more
With his best round since a 3-under 69 to begin the Open Championship, Tiger Woods carded a 2-under 68 Thursday in the first round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational as Marc Leishman took the lead.
Ryan Moore, Justin Rose and Charl Schwartzel are second with a trio of 65s. Moore and Schwartzel had set the pace early, but find themselves trailing Leishman's 6-under 64 – with a certain 14-time major champion lurking.
Here are 5 Things to know about Thursday's action at Firestone CC in Akron, Ohio:
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1. TIGER STEADIES HIS GAME: Twice in his first four holes, Tiger Woods made bogeys – once with a three-putt, once failing to get up and down – and twice he answered with birdies. At the ninth, Woods more than gave back his birdie on the eighth with double bogey, yet once again answered the blemish with a birdie.
The recoveries were emblematic of Woods' day, which was imperfect yet an improvement over the error-prone ways he displayed in five of his six rounds since returning from back surgery.
"I hit a lot of good shots today, hit a few not so solid, but kind of got it around a little bit," Woods said. "I think it's just progress. I just need to get reps in. … You come off surgery, it takes time; it's been building."
Birdies at Nos. 6 and 16, in hindsight, got Woods under par. The round is reminiscent of Woods' opening round at Royal Liverpool earlier this month, Thursday's double bogey notwithstanding.
Yet his play that followed at Hoylake was troublesome – rounds of 77, 73 and 75 – something he'll need to avoid this week and next if he's to play in the FedEx Cup playoffs and the Ryder Cup.
"Keep making birdies out here, keep the ball in play," Woods said. "It's soft right now and you see a lot of guys go under par, but with the wind cropping up this afternoon, not a lot of guys are under par.
"I don't care if it's dry or fast, I've always enjoyed playing here. As i told you guys earlier this week, you don't have to have an elephant burial ground to make a course tough to play. It's a classic course."
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2. LEISHMAN LEADS: With four birdies against a bogey on each nine, Australian Marc Leishman shot 64 to take the first-round lead of the WGC-Bridgestone.
While not one of the Tour's stars, it should be no surprise to see Leishman atop a leaderboard. The winner of the 2012 Travelers Championship has three top-10 finishes since the HP Byron Nelson Championship in May as well as a T-11 at this year's Travelers. He's 18th in scoring average this season and 16th in all-around ranking.
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3. TOUGH T-2 THREESOME: Ryan Moore, Justin Rose and Charl Schwartzel bogeyed fewer holes combined than Leishman among their 54 holes Thursday (just one, which belonged to Schwartzel). All come in with a fairly hot hand that seems to be holding form.
Moore has six finishes of T-26 or better in his last eight starts;
Rose has seven finishes of T-23 or better in his last eight starts;
Schwartzel has four finishes of T-12 or better in his last seven starts.
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4. FOWLER, REED IN T-5 BUNCH: Rickie Fowler has played well in strong fields, as evidenced by having the lowest total score among the year's three majors so far. That trend continued Thursday with a 67 that has him among four players tied for fifth.
Patrick Reed is another – and his day could have been even better if not for playing his last six holes in 2 over with bogeys at Nos. 4 and 9. Reed birdied three straight at Nos. 11-13 and added back-to-back birdies at Nos. 2-3.
Graham DeLaet and Francesco Molinari also shot 67.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Ryder Cup hopeful Keegan Bradley opened with a 2-under 68. … Phil Mickelson's lackluster season continues with a 1-over 71, good for T-35. … Rory McIlroy, making his first start since winning the Open Championship, shot 69 to stand T-14 at 1 under.