Tiger Woods thrills in Japan with opening 64 at Zozo Championship

October 24, 2019

It was an inauspicious start for Tiger Woods’ 2020 PGA Tour season debut at the Zozo Championship, as the Big Cat’s opening tee shot found the water. His ensuing bogey on his first hole (No. 10) was followed by two more, putting him three over par after three holes. But if there’s one thing observers know about Woods, it’s that his will to dig in and fight through a round is unmatched — and fight he did, to the delight of the enormous crowds who turned out for the PGA Tour’s first-ever official event in Japan.

As it happened, those three opening bogeys were the only blemishes on Woods’ card for the entirety of the first round. He steadied the ship with a par on No. 13 — and then the turnaround began in earnest. Three straight birdies on Nos. 14, 15 and 16 followed, bringing Woods back to even par by the time he reached his eighth hole (No. 17). He then birdied the par-5 18th to make the turn at one under par on the day.

Woods parred Nos. 1 and 2 before going on another three-birdie-in-a-row run on Nos. 3, 4 and 5. A par on No. 6 followed, and then another birdie on No. 7. At that point, Woods had made eight birdies in the span on 12 holes. He parred No. 8, and then punctuated the round with his ninth birdie of the day on No. 9, bringing him to six under par on the day, and, at the time, the outright leader of the tournament by two shots over Hideki Matsuyama, who still had five holes left to play.

“I was just trying to turn it to even par at the turn,” Woods explained to Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis in a post-round interview. “That was my goal. I was able to squeeze one more out of it, and lo and behold, I had the easier side I’m going to, and hopefully I could squeeze a couple more out of it, and I did a couple more better than that, which was nice.”

Though he hit the ball well, and his irons especially, it was Woods’ putter that really shined on Thursday. In addition to making several mid-length putts of five to 10 feet, he also drained a 30-footer on No. 7 and a 15-footer on No. 14, both of which were for birdies.

“The putting was really good,” Woods told Lewis with a smile.

Though a fair number of players had yet to finish their first rounds when Woods took possession of the clubhouse lead, it’s worth noting that it’s been 10 years since Woods claimed the outright lead in the first round of a tournament, dating all the way back to the 2009 PGA Championship. Woods ended up finishing second that week to Y.E. Yang, but his career win record with a first-round lead is 10 of 16.

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