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Booming drives thrill fans at Firestone

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AKRON, Ohio – Fans of the long ball are loving the WGC-Bridgestone.

Three drives of more than 400 yards were recorded in Thursday’s first round with South Africa’s Branden Grace (pictured) launching the longest. At the 16th, he drilled his tee shot 427 yards, the second longest tee shot recorded this year behind Gary Woodland’s 450-yard blast at the Plantation Course in Kapalua.

There were a staggering 58 drives of more than 350 yards in the first round.

Grace played alongside Tiger Woods on Thursday, their first pairing together. They’re the only three-time winners this year on the world’s major tours.

“He hits it a long way,” Woods said. “If he turns it over, he can get it out there with some of the longer guys.  If he's driving it well, the golf courses are all going to be short for him.”

Grace, who opened with a 2-over-par 72, was just the 11th longest driver in Thursday’s field, averaging 334 yards per drive. Bubba Watson led the way, averaging 351.5 yards per drive.

Watson hit his driver 11 times in the first round.

How many fairways did he hit?

“I don’t know,” Watson said. “I shot 4 under. That’s all I know.”

Actually, Watson hit 7 of 14 fairways.

Woods hit seven drivers and was T-38 in driving distance average (316.5). He hit 9 of 14 fairways.