What can we say about Tiger Woods's even-par 70 during the first round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational? It is what it is. Woods's play this season has been maddeningly inconsistent, and so was his first tour of Firestone Country Club. Woods's ballstriking on Thursday was mostly stellar, but continued struggles with his putter left him at even par, seven strokes behind Jim Furyk's sizzling pace.
A blown two-footer on the final hole was a fitting coda to a round in which he took 33 putts en route to bogeying three of the final six holes.
"I think I averaged about four putts a hole; It was a great day on the greens," Woods said afterward.
Spoiler alert: he was being sarcastic. Over the years, Woods has turned Firestone into his private playpen, and should he summon an eighth victory at the tight, tree-lined course he will surpass $100 million in career earnings. But Woods's mind is mostly on next week's PGA Championship, his last chance to turn a very good season into a great one.
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Prior to his first round Woods said, "This will be a nice way to get our games ready for obviously next week but also really test us at the same time." In that case, Woods's long game earned a passing grade for the first round. He hit 14 greens and nine fairways, avoiding the big miss left off the tee, a shot that spooks Woods to the core. He arrived at Firestone fourth in total driving, though his fairways hit (65.30%) is inflated by conservative club selection.
Woods looked more comfortable trying to hit draws with his driver, allowing him to handle Firestone's long, claustrophobic doglegs. "I was launching it out there," he said. "I was hitting good drives. I was shaping it both ways. It was nice."
Woods's ongoing problems with wedge distance control are compromising his rounds. (Tiger is 152nd on Tour on approaches from 75-100 yards.) Poor wedge play was at the heart of his back-nine skid, and Woods was unable to salvage the round on the greens. He admitted afterward to second-guessing both his speed and his line, and the indecision showed. "I didn't hit any putts hard enough," Woods said. "That's what's frustrating. I gotta make that adjustment. I was probably making it a little too complicated out there."
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The good news for Woods is that 70 is just about the worst score he could have shot. A cleaner round on Friday will get him back in the tournament and generate some needed momentum as he tries to peak for the PGA. Woods's game plan is pretty simple: "Just keep plugging away."