Tiger Woods is out early at Firestone, a course where he has won seven times, and he has had mixed results on the greens at the start of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. This is obviously one of Tiger's favorite annual stops on Tour, but all of his previous seven wins came before he re-made his swing with Sean Foley. He enters this week in much better form than the past three years at Firestone South, but some elbow trouble and another ugly weekend at the most recent major does create some lingering questions, particularly with the putter.
Woods teed off on No. 10 at Firestone, an easier par-4, and he immediately canned a birdie putt to get in the red. But sticking to recent form, the No. 1 player in the world gave that shot right back on the next hole. A poor chip shot on his second hole of the day prevented an up-and-down par save, continuing the shaky short game that hurt him around the greens at Muirfield.
The birdie chances continued on his next two holes, but Woods burned the edges on both to settle for easy pars. Each putt was inside 15 feet, but Tiger could not keep it inside the hole to get back to even-par. At No. 14, his fifth hole of the day, Woods left no doubt when he stuck his approach shot inside five feet for a much easier birdie chance. He converted the putt and was back to 1-under.
Tiger is two shots back of early pacesetter Henrik Stenson, the runner-up at the British Open. But Woods appears to have most of his game in form, even the driver, which he refused to hit at the British. Firestone is a longer layout, measuring right around 7,400 yards, so Woods will have to hit the driver this week (and practice with it for next week, where he'll need it at Oak Hill). The driver is working and the irons are crisp, creating easy pars and multiple birdies chances. He's striping it at a place where he's already exceedingly comfortable. Now he just needs the chipping and putting to hold up.
It's hard to imagine Tiger not being on the first page of the leaderboard this weekend at Firestone. Given his track record this season at the places that he has historically owned -- Torrey Pines, Doral, Bay Hill -- it's a perfect opportunity for a fifth 2013 win.