Inzai - Tiger
Woods got off to a horrific start before roaring back with nine birdies
in 15 holes to share the inaugural Zozo Championship lead in Japan
on Thursday as Rory McIlroy struggled.
Woods, three over after three holes, bounced back in stunning fashion
with a back-nine of 29 and a six-under round of 64 to top the
leaderboard alongside US Open champion Gary Woodland.
"I certainly was not expecting to shoot six-under par after that start," admitted Woods.
"It was ugly early and it was nice to be able to flip it. Now I'm in a
position where we're going to have a long, long weekend of a lot of
golf. Hopefully I can keep it going."
The American duo head into Friday with a one-shot lead over home
favourite Hideki Matsuyama at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in
"I was excited that fans were calling out my name," said Matsuyama,
who at 27th in the world is the highest-ranked Japanese player in the
"We don't normally have such big crowds."
Woodland, who won his first major at Pebble Beach in June, never looked troubled in a blemish-free round with six birdies.
"I drove the ball well. Any time I can control the ball on the greens
from the fairway and make some putts, that adds up to a pretty good
day," said the world number 18.
McIlroy is ranked the second best player on the planet, but you
wouldn't have known it as he scratched around with a cold putter in a
two-over 72, the low point being a double-bogey six at the 12th.
Remarkably, Woods' 64 was the lowest season-opening round of his
long career and came as the 43-year-old chases an 82nd PGA Tour
victory to tie the all-time record held by Sam Snead.
It was the most birdies Woods has scored in 18 holes since the first round of the 2013-WGC Mexico Championship.
But all that had not seemed remotely possible when Woods, who won his
15th major at the Masters in April, creaked into action after a
two-month layoff for arthroscopic left knee surgery.
Starting his round on a 10th
hole lined by massive crowds more than 10 people deep, Woods dropped
three shots in as many holes with three consecutive bogeys.
He steadied himself with a par at the 13th before turning his round on its head with three birdies in a row.
His fourth gain in five holes at the 18th saw him turn for home in one-under 35, with only two pars on his card.
By now he was firmly in the groove and three more birdies from the
third, his 12th hole, took Woods to a share of the lead at four under
with Matsuyama and Woodland.
A two at the short seventh put Woods out on his own to a deafening
roar from the golf-crazy, sell-out crowd of 17 734.
"It was loud, it was
very loud," he said.
"The people here in Japan have come out and supported this event and it's been a lot of fun to play in front of them again."
Woods made his final gain at the ninth where he barked for his ball to "get down" out of the rough.
"This grass, Zoysia, man. You can get some serious flyers out here, monster flyers," he said.
"The one I hit on the last hole, we were trying to hit an eight-iron
200 yards and hit it 200. That's not something I normally do."
The Zozo Championship offers a $9.75 million prize pot as the middle leg of the Tour's new megabucks Asian swing.
It began last week at the $9.75 million CJ Cup in South Korea, won by
Justin Thomas, and concludes at next week's $10.25 million WGC-HSBC
Champions in Shanghai.
Under threat of a tropical storm from late morning, Friday's second
round will start earlier at 07:00 with the last
groupings teeing off at 09:00.
on Friday after the first round of the PGA Tour's Zozo Championship at
Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, Inzai City, Chiba, Japan (par 70):
64 - Tiger Woods (USA), Gary Woodland (USA)
65 - Hideki Matsuyama (JPN)
67 - Kang Sung-hoon (KOR), Daniel Berger (USA), Ryan Palmer (USA)
68 - Andrew Putnam (USA), Billy Horschel (USA), Xander Schauffele
(USA), CT Pan (TPE), Joaquin Niemann (CHI), Ryo Ishikawa (JPN), Rikuya
69 - Louis Oosthuizen (RSA), Emiliano Grillo (ARG), Corey Conners
(CAN), Satoshi Kodaira (JPN), Paul Casey (ENG), Matthew Wolff (USA),
Bubba Watson (USA), Keegan Bradley (USA), Keith Mitchell (USA), Kevin
Tway (USA), Adam Schenk (USA)
70 - Charles Howell III (USA), Vaughn Taylor (USA), Justin Thomas
(USA), JT Poston (USA), Tomoharu Otsuki (JPN), An Byeong-hun (KOR),
Sergio Garcia (ESP), Danny Lee (NZL)
71 - Dylan Frittelli (RSA), Shane Lowry (IRL), Rory Sabbatini (SVK),
Adam Hadwin (CAN), Im Sung-jae (KOR), Park Sang-hyun (KOR), Kevin Na
(USA), Max Homa (USA), Troy Merritt (USA), Adam Long (USA), Chan Kim
(USA), Collin Morikawa (USA), Tommy Fleetwood (ENG), Ian Poulter (ENG)
72 - Rory McIlroy (NIR), Harold Varner III (USA), Patrick Reed (USA),
Tony Finau (USA), Ryan Moore (USA), Mikumu Horikawa (JPN), Yosuke Asaji
(JPN), Pat Perez (USA), Lucas Glover (USA), Seung-Su Han (USA), Joel
73 - Nate Lashley (USA), Shaun Norris (RSA), Jason Day (AUS), Adam Scott (AUS), Rafael Cabrera (ESP)
74 - Shugo Imahira (JPN), Abraham Ancer (MEX), Wyndham Clark (USA),
Jazz Janewattananond (THA), Jordan Spieth (USA), Jason Kokrak (USA)
75 - Kevin Kisner (USA), Viktor Hovland (NOR), Jinichiro Kozuma (JPN), Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG)
76 - Kim Si-woo (KOR), Marc Leishman (AUS)
77 - Chez Reavie (USA)
78 - Scott Piercy (USA), Kevin Streelman (USA)
81 - Graeme McDowell (NIR)