AKRON, Ohio – Under sunny skies in the season’s third World Golf Championship event, several players got off to hot starts. None was better, though, than Webb Simpson, who takes a one-shot lead into the second round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after opening with a 64.
What it means: In (surprisingly) just his first start in this event, Simpson made the most of his maiden trip around Firestone Country Club's South Course. After 18 holes, he clings to a slim advantage over Stenson, whose good play carried over from Scotland, while Woods highlights the group of players just two shots back, seeking his eighth career win at Firestone.
Round of the day: Though Simpson hit only 11 of 18 greens in regulation, he was still able to roll in eight birdies, taking just 22 putts during his opening round. Despite a closing bogey at the ninth hole, he was able to set the early pace in Akron thanks to a round that included a stretch of four straight birdies from No. 17 to No. 2.
Best of the rest: Stenson picked up right where he left off following his runner-up finish at Muirfield, making an eagle to go along with three birdies amid his bogey-free round of 65. The Swede was somewhat wild off the tee – a telling stat considering he currently leads the Tour in driving accuracy. Still, despite finding only eight of 14 fairways Thursday, Stenson sits just one shot back heading into Friday’s second round.
Biggest disappointment: Making his first start since claiming the claret jug, Phil Mickelson was unable to find his touch on Firestone’s slick greens Thursday. While the southpaw notched three birdies, he also carded five bogeys, missing several putts from inside 10 feet along the way. It all added up to a 2-over 72, and Mickelson now faces an eight-shot deficit after just 18 holes in his quest to win a third straight start.
Main storyline heading into Friday: While Simpson certainly has the credentials to contend this weekend, much of the attention after one round is on Woods as he looks for his first win at Firestone since 2009. His opening 66 had elements of a round much lower than that, and it remains to be seen if he can put together a similar effort Friday afternoon on a course where birdies are expected to continue to drop across the next three days.
Quote of the day: “In 2011, I was 51st in the world and didn’t get in, and last year our daughter Willow was born. So it was a nice entry round for me into this golf tournament.” – Simpson