Tiger Woods was pleased to get off to a good start as he again took a position that is all too familiar for his PGA Tour competitors – atop the leaderboard.
Woods, in search of his fifth consecutive victory, fired a 5-under-par 66 in swirling winds on Friday to take a one-shot lead during the opening round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston.
Woods carded six birdies, including the first and 18th holes, to move ahead of a pack of five players at 4-under 67.
“It was nice to get off to a quick start. I birdied the first hole,” Woods said. “With the weather as windy and swirly as it was today, it was nice to be under par early and obviously under par after nine. And then the wind started dying down a little bit on the back nine, so you could be a little more aggressive on the back nine and go after some flags.”
As if he needed it, Woods has added motivation to run his winning streak to five. Only three players have won five consecutive PGA tournaments – Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and Woods, overlapping 2000 into 2001.
Woods also has never won at the TPC Boston, an event where the proceeds go to the foundation which bears his name. Last year he fired an opening 65 to take a one-stroke lead, but faded the rest of the way and finished 11 shots back. He doesn’t expect a repeat of that effort.
“I got a lot out of my round today,” Woods said. “I played very conservatively on the front nine because of weather, but I’m in control of my golf ball. It could be a little better.”
Among the cluster one shot back of Woods are Justin Rose, Bob May, Joe Ogilvie, Nathan Greene and Aaron Baddeley.
Another pack is two shots back, including Jason Gore, Todd Hamilton, Peter Lonard, J.J. Henry, Nicholas Thompson, Robert Karlsson and Michael Allen.
Defending champion Olin Brown fired a two-under 69 and is tied with 10 others. In all, 45 players broke par, including VJ Singh, the 2004 Deutsche Bank champion who was unable to defend his title last year because of injury. He is at one-under 70.
All eyes, though, are on Woods. He has captured two majors – the British Open and PGA Championship – in his recent streak and is coming off a playoff victory over Stewart Cink at last week's Bridgestone Invitational. That was his 52nd win on the PGA Tour, tying him with Nelson for fifth all-time.
Woods had birdies at numbers one, six, seven and 10 to move to four-under before carding his only bogey at the par-four 13th. He immediately got back the shot with a birdie on the next hole and grabbed the outright lead at the par-five 18th, chipping out of a bunker to within five feet and making the putt for birdie.
“I had a good lie,” Woods said of his sand shot on 18. “I was on the upslope, so I could fly the ball up on top and just let it trickle down and it came out really nice.”
It is the final tournament before the Ryder Cup for Woods, who will be looking to reverse a string of mediocre performances when the United States takes on Europe at the K Club in Ireland.
Woods is a mere 7-11-2 in the international event.
Most of his Ryder Cup teammates, including Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco, are skipping this weekend’s tournament.
England’s Rose, who started his round on the back nine, made a late charge on Friday with four birdies on the front side, including the eighth and ninth, to temporarily grab a share of the lead until Woods birdied the 18th.
“I think the key was really I made the most of the best part of the day. This morning there wasn’t a lot of wind,” Rose said.
Baddeley, who was playing with Woods, seemed on his way to shooting a low number and upstaging the world’s top-ranked player. He moved to five-under through his first 10 holes, but bogeys on numbers 12 and 14 brought the Australian back to the second-place pack.
“If there’s one person I would want to play with it would be Tiger. He is a great guy to play with,” Baddeley said. “I really wanted to play well. This morning I was praying about it, that I would be calm out there, and I was very calm out there.”