Tiger Woods happy to grind it out on encouraging first day at Firestone

Tiger Woods admitted he had to fight hard to maintain his strong start to the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after he opened with a four-under 66 in Ohio.

Woods began at the 10th and cruised to the turn in three under par while not missing a fairway until the 18th, although he atoned by draining a huge 50-foot putt for birdie, but his long-game became ragged on the front nine and he found the short grass only one further time in the round.

The 42-year-old managed to grind out a series of pars while holing a pair of long-range putts for birdies at each of the two par-threes on the front nine, but he could not complete a blemish-free card after finding a fairway bunker off the tee at the tough nine.

Woods pulled his second short and left of the green and needed three more to get down as he slipped three shots off the pace, and he conceded he would have to improve his tee-to-green game if he wants to challenge for a ninth victory in the final staging of the event at Firestone Country Club.

“I felt like I didn’t quite hit it as well as I wanted to, but I fought out a score, which was good,” said Woods, whose victory in Akron five years ago remains the last time he lifted any silverware worldwide.

“I really felt like I putted well. I did a little bit of work trying to get a feel for the ball rolling out because the last time I played that wasn’t the case. I’ve hit a lot of putts from above the hole, and consequently I felt really comfortable.

“I felt like a good score would be a 67 or so. It looked like everybody was under par today, everyone was taking advantage of it. It is soft, the greens are holding and it’s so hot, the ball’s flying forever out there. So the golf course is really not playing very long and it’s very receptive.”

Woods compared his performance to his last outing in The Open at Carnoustie, where he led outright midway through the final day despite not being on top of his all-round game.

“It’s nice to shoot rounds like I did at The Open and like I did today, putting together rounds where I may not feel the best but I’m able to post a score,” he added. “That’s how you win golf tournaments.

“You’re not going to have your best for all four days and it’s a matter of that bad day being two or three under par instead of being two or three over par.

“And then everyone has their hot days. When you go hot, you can shoot eight or nine under par, but it’s your off days. And today certainly wasn’t as sharp as I wanted it to be, but I shot four under par today.”

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