Tiger starts strong at Firestone
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

T-Dubs hitting a chip shot

Oh, how nice it is to be back on familiar grounds — or golf courses in this case. Tiger Woods shot a four-under 66 in the first round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, which he has won seven times. Woods trails Webb Simpson by two shots.

With the PGA Championship, the final major of the season, looming in a week, Firestone isn’t a bad training ground or place to gain some extra confidence after his disappointing Sunday at Muirfield that dropped him from T2 to T6 at last month’s Open Championship.

“I feel very good about what I’m doing with basically my whole swing,” he told reporters after his round. “I hit a lot of good shots.  I had a really good feel for the distance today, and Joey (LaCava, my caddie) and I really read the wind right today.  It was good.  We did a lot of good feel.  We changed a few shots out there, and we both had a really good handle on what we were doing feel‑wise with the wind.”

Woods, who was leading the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting earlier this year, has struggled on the greens as of late — mostly on slow surfaces, though. He was pleased with his stroke on Thursday.

“I thought I putted well,” he said. “I had a good speed to it.  I did a lot of‑‑ did some good work last night, had a really good handle on the feel.  Obviously it changed overnight with the rain and spent a little more time, about an extra five minutes hitting some lag putts with a little moisture on it to see what it would do.  Downhill putts were quick, but uphill putts were much slower than yesterday.”

So, winning a WGC is nice, but we all know IT’S NOT A MAJOR. How much is preparing for the PGA Championship on your mind or are you just living in the moment?

“It’s a similar golf course in the fact that obviously it’s just straight in front of you,” said Woods, comparing Firestone to next week’s venue. “Oak Hill is just like this place but a little bit more difficult.  You don’t quite have the slopes and undulations that we’re going to face next week here.  There’s some pretty severe slopes that we’re going to have to deal with at Oak Hill and a couple putts out there that are a little bit on the quick side if you get in the wrong spot, but nothing like what we’re going to face next week.”

It’s really interesting to listen to Tiger break down and analyze golf courses. He’s extremely eloquent with his explanations most of the time. Obviously, the quote above is pretty general, but he has moments where his analysis is very helpful in spelling out such details in layman terms.

Tiger, why do you always win on the same courses?

“It’s one of those things where I was explaining to you guys yesterday that no matter how I’m playing coming in here, I’ve played terrible coming in here and I’ve played really well coming in,” he said. “And for some reason this golf course, I just see it.  It’s just one of those venues. No, luckily over the years I’ve taken advantage of it.  I have played well and I’ve scored well, and I’ve won my share of tournaments here.”

As I’m sure most of you know, some courses just fit your eye, suit your game, whatever it is — but you feel more comfortable at those tracks, which also gives you added confidence.

Anyway, snooze. A second WGC title this season would be nice, but wake me when it’s Sunday at a major. Good thing we don’t have to wait very long for that!

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)