Three days after the major championship season ended, Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh played like they still have plenty to prove Thursday by taking a share of the lead in the NEC Invitational at Akron, Ohio.
Woods twice escaped trouble from the trees but never came close to making bogey on a Firestone course that offered no letup for those coming off the PGA Championship. He made a 15-foot birdie on his final hole for a 4-under 66, and later was joined by Singh and Henrik Stenson of Sweden.
Singh had a chance to take the outright lead until missing a 6-foot birdie putt on his 17th hole. He had to scramble from the rough to save par on the 484-yard ninth hole for a share of the lead.
Davis Love III carried his good play from Baltusrol into the first round and was among those at 67, while PGA champion Phil Mickelson was all smiles on his way to a 69.
“I didn’t hit it great today, but I left myself with some easier up-and-downs when I did miss, so it wasn’t so bad,” said Woods, who has never finished lower than fifth in seven appearances at Firestone.
Woods and Singh were the only players to finish in the top 10 at all four majors this year, with Woods winning the Masters and British Open.
But there is still plenty at stake.
Singh has won the PGA Tour money title the last two years, and he trails Woods by about $185,000 with two months left in the season. And while Singh’s four victories don’t carry the weight as Woods’ two majors, the 42-year-old Fijian is hopeful of another big run at the end of the year to warrant consideration for player of the year.
His putting didn’t hold him back Thursday, it saved him.
Struggling with shots into the green, Singh saved par seven times from off the green and picked up ground on the opening holes, after he made the turn, with three straight birdies.
Defending champion Vaughn Taylor birdied six of his last eight holes for an 8-under par 64 and took a one-stroke lead over Sweden’s Fredrik Jacobson and Reno’s Todd Fischer in the windy first round of the Reno-Tahoe Open. Guy Boros was another stroke back at 6-under 66, followed by Aaron Baddeley, Jesper Parnevik and Duffy Waldorf at 67 on the 7,472-yard course at Montreux Golf and Country Club.
Tournaments in Portland, Seattle
With Annika Sorenstam taking some time off, teenager Paula Creamer, who has won twice on the LPGA Tour, has the spotlight at the Safeway Classic, which starts today at Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland. It’s one of six full-field events remaining on the LPGA schedule.
•Hale Irwin, Gil Morgan and Craig Stadler are among the contenders for the inaugural 54-hole Greater Seattle Classic, a Champions Tour event which is scheduled to begin this morning at TPC at Snoqualmie Ridge.
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