ATLANTA – In what was billed as a clash of titans, Tiger Woods clipped upstart rival Rory McIlroy by three strokes on Thursday at East Lake. More importantly he outplayed everyone else except Justin Rose on Day 1 for a share of the Tour Championship lead.
In a steady round that featured just five missed greens in regulation Woods opened with a 4-under 66, his second-lowest opening-day effort at East Lake, and connected with 10 of 14 fairways.
“I probably could have got a couple more out of my round, but I was pretty much right on my number,” said Woods, who played with McIlroy (69) on Thursday.
Just once (64 in 2007) has Woods, who trails McIlroy in the FedEx Cup points race, started with a lower first-round card and his 26 putts left him tied for second in the field.
“I hit a lot of good shots out there today, made a couple of putts out there, but more importantly I got up-and-down (for par),” he said.
After going 2 under through his first three holes, Woods missed the green at No. 4 and hit a poor chip that led to bogey, but that was his lone short-game miscue on Day 1.
He made par after missing the green at Nos. 5 and 6 and chipped in for birdie after sailing his approach long at the 12th. At the par-5 15th he chipped to 4 feet for birdie and followed with an 8 footer for birdie at the 16th to take a share of the lead.
He missed birdie attempts from inside 15 feet at Nos. 17 and 18 to set up an all-Sean Foley final pairing on Friday with Rose.