Woods makes early statement
ATLANTA In the one week Tiger Woods had away from golf during the FedEx Cup playoffs, Nick Faldo said he had lost his aura, Greg Norman said he was intimidated by Rory McIlroy and Johnny Miller claimed that Woods once wanted lessons from him.
“Nice week, huh?” Woods said, grinning.
Even better was to be back on the course Thursday at the Tour Championship, where Woods had the final word for at least one day. He kept the ball in play at East Lake, chipped in for one of his six birdies and wound up with a 4-under 66 for a share of the lead with Justin Rose.
It was the first step toward what Woods hopes is a third FedEx Cup title, and another $10 million bonus.
“I probably could have gotten a couple more out of it,” Woods said about his opening round. “But I was probably right on my number.”
McIlroy, playing with Woods for the fifth time in these FedEx Cup playoffs, got up-and-down from short of the par-3 18th hole for a 69. McIlroy is trying to become the first player since Woods in 2006 to win three straight PGA Tour events in the same season, and he wasn’t overly alarmed by his start.
“Wish I could have shot a couple shots better,” McIlroy said. “But I’m in a good position going into tomorrow.”
The week began with Norman saying that Woods was intimidated by McIlroy, a suggestion that both players found amusing. While it’s doubtful that inspired Woods, he played as if he wasn’t ready to let McIlroy win a third straight playoff event and capture the FedEx Cup.
McIlroy, who has won three of his last four tournaments, and Woods are among the top five seeds at East Lake who only have to win the Tour Championship to claim the largest payoff in golf.
Rose swiftly moved up the leaderboard late in his round with three birdies over the last five holes, and the last one was memorable. From the back of the green on the par-3 18th, Rose faced a 50-foot putt with some 20 feet of break from right to left. It looked wide the whole way until it snapped back toward the cup.
Scott Piercy ran off three straight birdies late in his round until he stumbled in the rough behind the 18th green and finished with a double bogey for a 67, tied with Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar and Bo Van Pelt. Stricker was the only player in the 30-man field without a bogey.
Thompson leads with 63
At Prattville, Ala., Lexi Thompson made a little more history Thursday in the Navistar LPGA Classic, opening her title defense with a career-best 9-under 63 to take a two-stroke lead.
Last year, Thompson became the youngest champion in LPGA Tour history at age 16, winning by five strokes. Fifteen-year-old amateur Lydia Ko broke the record last month in the Canadian Women’s Open.
Thompson had nine birdies in her bogey-free round. Lizette Salas and Hee Young Park shot 65, and second-ranked Stacy Lewis was in a group another stroke back.
along with Karen Stupples, Amanda Blumenherst, Wendy Ward and Mi Hyang Lee.
Top-ranked Yani Tseng and Michelle Wie were eight strokes behind at 71.