Mixed fortunes for Rory McIlroy on day one at TPC Sawgrass

Dean Simpson
May 13, 2018

You feel like no matter what, you're going to make it, and I grew up on an easy golf course, so it reminded me of being back home, shooting low numbers.

Playing alongside him for the first time was the 27-year-old Canadian Mackenzie Hughes, who stared at his phone Friday night hoping to see a text that he would be paired with Woods.

Webb Simpson also overcame a disastrous double bogey to run away with the lead, equalling the record at TPC Sawgrass.

"I didn't quite swing it right today, and I didn't quite have the shape, ball flight", said Woods, who made two birdies and a bogey.

The headline-grabbing grouping - featuring Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler - tees off their first round at 1.52pm on Thursday (5.52am Friday NZT), while another glamour group - featuring Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy - finished their opening rounds in unspectacular fashion, with McIlroy at one-under, Thomas at one-over and Spieth at three-over. With the kind of control over the course that now exists with the subterranean technology, the course can basically be set up any way the grounds crew wants.

After a momentum-saving up-and-down par on 6, Tiger hit another wedge inside 10 feet on 7 and dropped that to reach five under.

Woods' iron play was spot on and his putter red hot as he birdied four of the first five holes.

"I was just a touch off today", Woods told reporters after his 71. The other was the third round in 2001, when Woods holed a birdie putt from one end of the island green to the other on the par-3 17th and wound up winning the next day. "You have to just take what it gives you, and take you medicine when you get out of position".

An eagle and nine birdies, including six in a row from the 11th, left Simpson needing to birdie the final two holes to join the elite group of players to break the magical 60 barrier on the PGA Tour. Woods missed only one putt inside 10 feet all day and finished with 2.9 strokes gained putting for the round.

As one of the first players to tee off at TPC Sawgrass, Woods reeled off six birdies over his first nine holes to climb into the top 20.

He turned in 30 and added further birdies at the 11th and 12th holes, but he could not pick up any more. He made his lone bogey of the day at 14 after missing the fairway to the right for the third consecutive day.

Woods walked off the course in a tie for eighth place at eight under. And when he does, that vault-like memory of his won't have to drift back to 2000, or 2008, or even 2013 for inspiration. "These guys are going to go low today again".

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