Woods missed a chance to take the lead at 5 under when his 17-foot birdie putt on the par-4 17th hole yesterday caught the left edge of the cup and failed to drop in.
“I played well,” Woods told reporters. “I probably could have gotten a couple more out of it. I hit a couple of really good putts that lipped out. Other than that, it was a really good day.”
The tournament caps a four-event playoff series and awards a $10 million bonus to the FedEx Cup points champion in addition to the $1.4 million tournament winner’s share.
Rory McIlroy, a 23-year-old Northern Irishman who has won three of his past four U.S. tournaments, including the PGA Championship, leads the points standings coming into the event. McIlroy, who is paired with Woods for the third time in the past five weeks, is three shots back at 1 under.
“You figure the top players are going to gravitate toward the top of the points list and hence, you’re going to have these type of pairings throughout the playoffs,” Woods said. “It’s worked out the way that our tour wanted it to work out.”
Rose, a 32-year-old Englishman who is 16th in the FedEx Cup standings, finished his round of 4-under 66 with a 52-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole, his sixth birdie of the day.
“I’m beginning to get some confidence with the putter,” Rose said. “So it was nice to get out with a hot start.”
It’s the first time McIlroy has played in the Tour Championship, while Woods’s record at the event includes a win and three runner-up finishes in his past four appearances.
McIlroy holds the edge over Woods in their head-to-head meetings, scoring lower than Woods 14 of 20 times they have been in the same field in U.S. and European Tour events the past two years. In 44 combined appearances together, McIlroy has topped Woods 23 times and won five of those events, compared with three titles for Woods.
Woods has won three times on the U.S. tour this year. His victories at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Memorial Tournament and the AT&T National had him positioned for Player of the Year honors until McIlroy secured his second career major title with an eight-shot win at the PGA Championship last month and followed it with back-to-back playoff victories in Boston and Indiana.
“It’s a great atmosphere,” McIlroy said of the season- ending tournament. “It’s a great buzz, and wish I could have shot a couple shots better. But I’m in a good position.”
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