WOODS OFF TO A STRONG START; FIL-AUSSIE JASON DAY TIED FOR 2nd W/ SCOTT

[PHOTO -
 Tiger Woods is 2-under, 'feels great': played his first competitive round Thursday since May 12 at the Players Championship. / SAM GREENWOOD/Getty Images ]

AKRON, OHIO, AUGUST 6, 2011 (BULLETIN) (AP) – Tiger Woods said his left knee felt as strong as he thought it was. His game didn't look bad either.

Playing for the first time in nearly three months, Woods made a strong opening statement Thursday that his health is no longer an issue by going after any shot from any lie in a round of 2-under 68 at the Bridgestone Invitational.


“It feels great,” Woods said. “As anybody who's been off and who's been injured, first time back it's a little nervous to see what happens. But my practice sessions were good, so there's no reason why I should be worried out there. I went out there and let it go, let it rip, and see what happens.''

His ex-caddie saw the kind of golf he was used to seeing at Firestone, too.

[PHOTO - Australia's Adam Scott (R) listens to his caddie, Steve Williams]

Steve Williams, now working permanently for Adam Scott after Woods fired him a month ago, watched the Australian play flawlessly in matching his career-low round with a 62 that gave Scott a one-shot lead.

Filipino-Australian Jason Day, who tied for second with Scott at the Masters, had enjoyed the lead for most of the day with a 63 during the morning round before surrendering it to his fellow Australian Scott who birdied four of the last five holes.

Williams was on the bag for all seven of Woods' wins at Firestone, including his record score of 259 when he won by 11 shots in 2000.

“He didn't think it was a big deal to shoot 62,” Scott said. “It was normal.”

[PHOTO - Filipino-Australian Jason Day]

Woods, who last completed a round at the Masters, had his lowest opening round of the year. Considering the soft conditions, it only was worth a tie for 18th, six shots out of the lead.

With an overcast sky in the morning and barely any wind throughout the steamy afternoon, half of the 78-man field at this World Golf Championship broke par.

Nick Watney, a World Golf Championship winner at Doral this year, bogeyed the last hole and still had a 65.

Woods at least got himself pointed in the right direction.

Playing in soft spikes for the first time, and going back to the putter that he used in 13 of his major championships, Woods avoided a poor start by making an 18-foot par putt on the third, and he saved his round toward the end of the front nine by getting up-and-down from a bunker on the eighth, and making a 20-foot par putt on the ninth.

Then came his approach on the 10th, that spun out of the back fringe and settled about 4 feet away for birdie – not only his first of the day, but his first since he two-putted for birdie form 4 feet on the 15th hole at the Masters on April 10.

There was one moment on the 17th tee when a reporter thought he saw Woods left his left leg in a peculiar fashion.

“The marker was right in my way,” Woods said with a grin.

Perhaps more telling is that Woods said he stopped putting ice on his leg and taking inflammatory medicine ``a while ago,'' and held nothing back in his first competitive round in 84 days.

“I hadn't really gone at it yet until today,” he said. “Just kind of plodding away, just kind of hitting shots. Today was just, 'Let's go, let's go play, just put everything else aside and let's go give it a go and try to post a low number.”

His lone bogey came on the 14th hole, when he tried to hit a perfect bunker shot from a slightly downhill lie with the green running away from him. He came inches short of pulling it off, leaning back in disbelief. He two-putted from the collar for bogey, and then came back two holes later with a shot that showed he might already be at full strength.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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