ATLANTA, Georgia USA September 21 – Tiger Woods and England’s Justin Rose each fired four-under par 66s on Thursday to share the lead after the first round of the US PGA Tour Championship.
Woods, who can capture the US PGA season playoff championship with a victory, and Rose — who dropped in a 50-foot birdie effort at the 18th — each fired six birdies and took two bogeys in the 30-player showdown at East Lake.
“I played well,” Woods said. “It was a very consistent round. I hit the ball well, made a few putts, got around well.”
Woods sank a long birdie putt at the par-3 second and a six-footer for birdie at the par-4 third. After a bogey at the fourth, Woods finished the front nine with a birdie and made another with a long putt at the 12th.
Woods, in the final group, took a bogey at the 14th but answered with birdies at the par-5 15th and par-4 16th to claim a share of the lead.
Rose, who has not won since March at Doral, answered a bogey at the second with a birdie at the next hole and a bogey at the seventh with back-to-back birdies to conclude the front nine and again at the 14th and 15th before closing with his impressive birdie.
Sharing third on 67 were Americans Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar, Bo Van Pelt and Scott Piercy with Americans Hunter Mahan, Brandt Snedeker, Zach Johnson, Robert Garrigus and Australian Adam Scott on 68.
World No. 1 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who has won three of his past four starts, fired a 69.
McIlroy, who played alongside Woods in round one, can also claim the playoff title with a victory as can Snedeker, Nick Watney and Phil Mickelson. Mickelson opened on 69. Watney fired a 75.
All 30 players in the field have a chance at capturing the $10 million playoff crown and some can claim the prize without winning the tournament title.
Rose, who entered 24th of 30 in the playoff points standings, would need to win and have Woods finish no better than a three-way share of fifth and McIlroy fare no better than 17th. Woods controls his own destiny.
“Winning takes care of everything,” Woods said.
Woods played somewhat cautiously at times in warm and breezy conditions, trusting his putter and positioning to help him make birdies. On the day, Woods reached 10 of 14 fairways and reached 13 of 18 greens in regulation.
“This course demands you flight the ball well,” Woods said. “You try to keep the ball below the hole because these greens are really quick. I had a couple good up and downs. This wind wasn’t so bad. I’m used to playing in it.”
Woods was pleased to smash the ball off the tee at times as far as he did in his younger days.
“I still have it in there. I just choose not to use it on every shot like I used to,” Woods said. “It’s nice to feel healthy enough to be able to clear 310 (yards) again like I used to.”
McIlroy laughed off comments by retired Aussie star Greg Norman that McIlroy intimidates Woods, who once boasted such an aura on his way to winning 14 major titles, the most recent of them in 2008.
“He’s definitely not intimidated by me and I don’t think I’m intimidated by him,” McIlroy said of his playing partner. “Hopefully we can just play out there and we have a lot of great battles to come.”
Thursday’s pairing was the fifth time in four tournaments that Woods and McIlroy have played together and the eighth time this year.
“I’ve gotten more comfortable playing with him. You get more comfortable being around somebody. We’ve been around each other a lot in these playoffs.”
McIlroy won the Deutsche Bank and BMW championship playoff events as well as last month’s PGA Championship, his second career major victory after the 2011 US Open.
“Tiger shot a little better than me, but the quality of golf out there was high,” McIlroy said.