Tiger Woods recorded his best round of the year with a 6-under-par 65 and shares the first-round lead at the U.S. PGA Tour’s Barclays tournament, the first event he has played since announcing his divorce.
Woods, playing in the first group of the day, finished his round at the Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey, with seven birdies and one bogey. It marked Woods’s first score in the 60s in his past 12 rounds. He’s tied for the lead with Vaughn Taylor, one shot ahead of Ryan Palmer and Brian Gay.
“It’s exciting to hit the ball flush again,” Woods told reporters. “It’s something I’ve been missing all year. It felt good to hit the ball and shape it both ways and really hit it through the wind. Today I was doing it all day.”
The Barclays is the first of four season-ending playoff events on the PGA Tour, the world’s richest golf circuit. The FedEx Cup winner, which will be determined at next month’s Tour Championship in Atlanta, receives a $10 million bonus. Woods has won the title two of the past three years.
The world’s No. 1 golfer disclosed on Aug. 23 that his six-year marriage to Elin Nordegren had ended, nine months after a car accident outside their Florida home led to revelations of his extramarital affairs.
Woods, 34, began play today with four birdies through his first seven holes. His lone bogey of the round came on the par-4 12th hole. He then birdied the par-5 13th and par-4 14th to reach 5-under before briefly taking the lead with an eight-foot birdie putt on the final hole.
Taylor bogeyed the third hole before carding seven birdies over his next 14 holes to match Woods’s 65. Taylor said he welcomed the sight of Woods’s name on the leaderboard again.
“It’s good to see him back up top,” Taylor told reporters. “It’s been a tough year for him. We’ve all seen what he’s been going through. It just looks like if he tweaked his swing and made a couple putts he’d be right back in there.”
After heavy rains hit the tree-lined course during the days leading up to the tournament, rules officials today allowed players to lift, clean and place their golf balls on shots from the muddy fairways.
Because of the conditions, Woods hit his driver on just two tee shots, instead opting for shorter-flying shots with a 3-wood.
“It’s more important to get the ball in play,” said Woods, who has continued to work with swing coach Sean Foley this week. “Even if I have a 3- or 4-iron in the fairway, I’d much rather have that than a 7-iron in the rough. I just felt that was a better way of playing the golf course today.”
Woods said yesterday that the completion of divorce proceedings brought a sense of sadness, not relief. He also said the proceedings had been a distraction since he returned to the golf tour at the Masters Tournament in April.
Under Foley’s guidance, Woods said, he is committed to fixing swing flaws that have plagued his game.
“It was the backswing, the downswing and the follow-through,” Woods said. “Other than that, it was good.”
Woods hasn’t officially hired Foley on a full-time basis.
The top player in the Official World Golf Ranking and the winner of 14 major championships, Woods hasn’t won since his return and must play well this week to remain in the playoffs.
Woods and Nordegren were married on Oct. 5, 2004, and have a 3-year-old daughter, Sam, and a 19-month-old son, Charlie.
After tying for fourth at the Masters and U.S. Open, Woods missed the cut at the Wells Fargo Championship and withdrew from the Players Championship with a neck injury. In his most recent event, he tied for 28th at the PGA Championship, which ended Aug. 15.