Tiger Woods opens Wyn­d­ham with his best round in more than two years

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY JOEDY MCCREARY

Tiger Woods kept say­ing his game was get­ting bet­ter, even though his re­sults didn’t show it.

On his first day at the Wyn­d­ham Cham­pi­onship, his score fi­nally did.

Woods had his best round in more than two years Thurs­day, shoot­ing a 6-un­der 64.

Two-time heart trans­plant re­cip­i­ent Erik Comp­ton, Wil­liam McGirt and Tom Hoge shared the first-round lead at 62.

Mor­gan Hoff­man, Jim Her­man and Derek Ernst fol­lowed at 63, and Martin Kaymer, Davis Love III and Carl Pet­ters­son joined Woods at 64.

It was Woods’ low­est score on the PGA Tour since a 61 in the sec­ond round of the WGC-Bridge­stone In­vi­ta­tional in 2013.

He and the oth­ers took ad­van­tage of a low-scor­ing day at what he called a “tricky” Don­ald Ross-de­signed course at Sedge­field Coun­try Club that gave up bunches of birdies af­ter morn­ing showers soft­ened the fair­ways and greens.

“When it’s like this,” Woods said, “you’ve got to throw darts and go low.”

And while Comp­ton and McGirt threat­ened the tour­na­ment record, the clear story of the day was Woods.

That low score couldn’t have come at a bet­ter time for the big­gest name in the sport.

He set the tone by hol­ing a 54-foot chip shot on his first hole, the par-4 10th, for the first of his seven birdies. “Fi­nally,” he said, “I got some­thing out of my round.” Woods ar­rived in­sist­ing he was play­ing bet­ter than his re­cent re­sults might in­di­cate.

He had missed the cut in three straight ma­jors and had not fin­ished bet­ter than a tie for 17th at the Mas­ters. He’s at No. 187 on the FedEx Cup points list and prob­a­bly needs a win to move into the top 125 and earn a play­off spot.

Yet he said af­ter last week’s early exit from the PGA Cham­pi­onship that those re­sults be­lied the im­prove­ment he was mak­ing in his game.

“I know it’s crazy to say, but I wasn’t play­ing that poorly at PGA,” Woods said. “Any bor­der­line shot (at Whistling Straits) I never got away with it, and that’s the way it goes. I felt like I was hit­ting the ball good enough and just kept pro­gress­ing, and to­day was just a con­tin­u­a­tion of it.” Es­pe­cially on that first hole. His shot from the left side of the green landed about 8 feet from the cup and rolled in.

“I went for the shot, and in­stead of play­ing some­thing more con­ser­va­tive, the greens were hard and fast, and I wanted to play some­thing long,” Woods said. “I got ag­gres­sive with it, and I went for it, and I pulled it off. ... I could see it go­ing in.”

Hoge, play­ing in the day’s fi­nal group­ing, made a late charge up the leader­board, clos­ing his round with a 5-foot birdie putt on the 18th.

Comp­ton, who started on the back nine, fin­ished with a 29 on the front nine with seven birdies in that span.

“Any time you can break 30 in nine holes, you’re ob­vi­ously do­ing some­thing re­ally cool,” Comp­ton said.

It’s the latest pos­i­tive for a 35-year-old who earned his tour card in 2012 — four years af­ter his sec­ond heart trans­plant.

He’s chas­ing his first vic­tory, and so is McGirt, who fin­ished in a tie for eighth here last year. At No. 86 on the points list, McGirt is in vir­tu­ally no dan­ger of miss­ing the play­offs.

Comp­ton — who’s closer to the cut­off at No. 114 — is just try­ing not to lose any ground.

Mean­while, for the oth­ers closer to the post­sea­son bub­ble, things are a lit­tle more stress­ful.

Ernst, who’s at No. 178 and is play­ing in the fi­nal tour­na­ment of the 2-year ex­emp­tion he earned for his lone vic­tory — at the Wells Fargo Cham­pi­onship in 2013 — shot the best round of his four-year ca­reer.

But per­haps no­body’s deal­ing with more than Billy Hur­ley III.

Hur­ley’s first round came two days af­ter he at­tended the fu­neral of his fa­ther, who died last week of a self-in­flicted gun­shot wound.

The 33-year-old Hur­ley is at No. 131 on the points list and is only here this week be­cause he’s try­ing to se­cure his PGA Tour card for next year.

“It wasn’t re­ally a hard de­ci­sion” to play, Hur­ley said, “but it’s cer­tainly hard to do.”

He said he nearly felt over­whelmed on the putting green, “al­most didn’t know what I was do­ing in some ways” dur­ing his first hand­ful of holes, then “scram­bled my way around” the back nine. By the end of his 69, Hur­ley said he “felt like al­most a golfer again.”

AP

Tiger Woods re­acts to his shot on the ninth hole dur­ing the first round of the Wyn­d­ham Cham­pi­onship golf tour­na­ment in Greens­boro, North Carolina, Thurs­day, Aug. 20.

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