AKRON, Ohio -- Tiger Woods showed signs of a positive recovery Thursday at the Bridgestone Invitational.
Not just from back surgery, but from making bogeys.
Woods bounced back with birdies all three times that he made mistakes, opening with a 2-under 68 on a soft, gentle day for scoring at Firestone. It left him four shots behind Marc Leishman of Australia, and hopeful that this time he can build on a solid start.
Woods opened with a 69 at the British Open two weeks ago, only to plunge down the leaderboard the rest of the week at Royal Liverpool.
"I hit a lot of good shots," Woods said. "I dropped shots at three holes out there today (and) got it right back on the very next hole."
For so many players, the opening round of this World Golf Championship felt like either a warmup or an audition for bigger events to follow. Ryan Moore was among three players at 65, a good start for someone looking for one big week to get him on the Ryder Cup team.
Two more Ryder Cup hopefuls -- Patrick Reed and Francesco Molinari of Italy -- were among those another shot back.
British Open champion Rory McIlroy, who next week will chase his second consecutive major, was among the leaders until not paying attention to packed sand in a bunker that sent him to a double bogey late in his round. He still wound up with a 69.
Leishman has quietly gone about his work in reasonable form, with top 10s recently at Congressional and Royal Liverpool. He had the perfect formula for Firestone, a big golf course where good scores are available by keeping the ball in play.
"I drove the ball well. It makes this course a lot easier when you're on the fairway," Leishman said. "It's pretty tough when you're playing from the rough. Then, I hit my irons really well and was rolling the ball awesome. So it's a pretty good combination for a tough golf course like this, something I can hopefully keep going."
Charl Schwartzel and Justin Rose joined Moore one shot out of the lead.
Woods said only a mild breeze and soft conditions from overnight rain allowed for scoring, though he noted that no one went terribly low. The 64 by Leishman seemed like a good score, so maybe Woods was basing that on his own experience at a course where he has won eight times.
Woods twice has shot his career-best 61 at Firestone, including last year on his way to a seven-shot victory. That he managed six birdies was a sign that he was making putts, even though two of his birdies were tap-ins.
He still had a few wild moments, starting with a three-putt bogey from 10 feet on the opening hole. He hooked his drive so badly on the par-5 second hole that he worried it might not clear the lake on the adjacent third hole. It was far enough left to leave him a good angle with a 5-wood that he put on the green for a two-putt birdie.
His only big mistake was a shot into the trees on the ninth hole. It took him two shots to get out, and from behind the green he couldn't get up-and-down and made double bogey. Just like two other bogeys in his round, he answered with a birdie with a shot into 6 feet on No. 10.
Watney takes lead
RENO, Nev. -- Nick Watney made nine birdies Thursday in a bogey-free round in the Barracuda Championship to take a two-point lead in the modified Stableford event.
Watney earned 18 points at Montreux Golf and Country Club. Players receive 8 points for double eagle, 5 for eagle, 2 for birdie, 0 for par, minus-1 for bogey and minus-3 for double bogey or worse.
"I'm very pleased with the way I played today," said Watney, from Fresno, Calif. "This is pretty close to home. So it's nice to see a lot of friends and family. I'm enjoying myself and hope it continues like this."
Watney is making his first appearance in the event since 2008 after failing to qualify for the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational. He's 124th in the FedEx Cup standings, with the top 125 getting into The Barclays -- the playoff opener that he won in 2012 for the last of his five PGA Tour titles.
Geoff Ogilvy and Tim Wilkinson were tied for second.
Ogilvy, the Australian who won the 2006 U.S. Open, had eight birdies in his bogey-free round. Wilkinson, from New Zealand, had nine birdies and two bogeys.
Chad Campbell and Scotland's Martin Laird were fourth at 13 points, and 2009 winner John Rollins was another point back along with Kevin Chappell, John Huh and Wes Roach.
Bryce Molder (Conway) had a 5-under 67 and 10 points. David Lingmerth (Razorbacks) had a 4-under 68 and nine points. Tag Ridings (Razorbacks) had a 3-under 69 and seven points.
Ken Duke (Arkadelphia, Henderson State) shot an even-par 72 and received no points. Glen Day (Little Rock) had a 3-over 75 and minus 2 points. John Daly (Dardanelle, Arkansas Razorbacks) had a 5-over 77 and minus 3 points.
Sports on 08/01/2014
Print Headline: Woods has good start, 4 behind Bridgestone leader