The inaugural ZOZO Championship got the blockbuster start they were after as Tiger Woods carded a career-low first-round score on Thursday.
Woods, who last led after the opening round of a TOUR event some 3,724 days ago, got off to a nightmare start with three straight bogeys. He proceeded to rattle off three in a row from the 14th and then ensured he would start the back nine under par after a birdie at the 18th.
His run into the clubhouse was exhilarating with two pars the perfect foil to his next seven holes that included five birdies without a blemish.
Thursday’s round was his equal-lowest career score on tour with three or more bogeys as he tied his second-round display from the 1996 Quad City Classic.
It was also a day on which he carded the most birdies since 2013’s Doral Championship. In all, he made nine birdies as he came within one of equalling his best ever birdie binge.
Can he be stopped? The numbers, as you will have gathered, point favourably in his direction with a 62.5% conversion rate following a first-round lead.
‘Well, I think that it’s going to be sloppy and tough for us tomorrow morning before the storm gets in and I think we’re probably going to get a little bit wet while we’re playing out there tomorrow and then it’s going to be a grind on the weekend,’ said Woods.
‘There’s going to be a lot of golf on the weekend for all of us, probably be close to, what, 54 holes or so for some of the guys that are going out there on the weekend. So, it will be a long couple days for us.’
Gary Woodland birdied the last to join Woods at the top.
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama was next best with a round of 65 that delighted home crowds. He is coming into some nice form ahead of the Presidents Cup and dropped just two shots.
Daniel Berger and Korea’s Sung Kang are third but already three strokes behind the leader.
In Louis Oosthuizen’s first round for two months he finished level par and he is back in 23rd place with three birdies being cancelled out by the same number of drops.
A birdie at the par-five 18th was countryman Dylan Frittelli’s first gain of the day as he signed for a 71. He opened with consecutive drops before steadying the ship.
Rory McIlroy and Jason Day were +2 and +3, respectively, as they felt little positive effect from their Skins Challenge match earlier in the week.
Joining Day with a 73 was Rafa Cabrera Bello, Adam Scott and Shaun Norris, who plies his trade in Japan. Unfortunately, being accustomed to the local conditions was not enough for the South African. His round was marred with two double bogeys – the first at the eighth which had him turn one over par and then another at the penultimate hole.
Norris showed his character by closing with a birdie.
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