Tiger Woods knocked in a slippery par-saving putt on his last hole of the opening round at The Barclays, heaved a sigh of relief that his nearly 11-hour day was done and looked forward to some relief for his aching back.
"We’re done," Woods told Golf Channel after shooting a flawless 4-under 67 at Liberty National Golf Course to put himself firmly into contention for his first-ever win in the first of four 2013 FedEx Cup playoff events. "It was a long day and tomorrow will be a short one and then Saturday will be pretty much a marathon."
The world's top golfer dealt with a stiff back and two lengthy weather delays in Thursday’s kickoff to the season-ending chase for the cash. He teed off at 8:16 a.m. ET and dropped his last putt in some 10 hours and 45 minutes later.
He winced and stretched throughout the round and was happy, finally, to call it a day. Woods blamed his back issues on a soft hotel mattress, but figures the injury shouldn't linger.
"[My back] was a bit stiff this afternoon in the third restart," Woods said. "I’ll get a little treatment tonight and I’ll be good."
Woods made his way around the re-imagined Liberty National Golf Course with little trouble, putting himself in cruise control until the final hole. There, a wayward approach shot on the par-4 ninth (his 18th hole), landed in thick, green-side rough. It was Tiger’s fifth missed green on a day when he made three straight birdies on the front nine, hitting 10 of 14 fairways and needing just 27 putts on the day.
After leaving himself about a five-footer for par on his final hole, Woods’ ball did a victory lap around the cup before ducking out of sight.
"The greens were way more receptive [after the rain delay]," Woods said. "You could be aggressive. None of these flags were something you could fear."
Woods is playing the first two rounds in Jersey City with Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker. They sit second and third, respectively, to Woods' top spot in the playoff points. Kuchar ended his long day a shot ahead of Woods and two shots behind current leader Kevin Stadler. Snedeker will enter Friday’s second round at 1-over.
Woods' crew got going early, but some names started their Thursday rounds at the cocktail hour: David Lynn, Luke Donald and Tim Clark teed off at 5:42 p.m., Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, and Harris English went at 6:04 p.m. and Phil Mickelson, Bill Haas, and Billy Horschel finally found their way to their first tee box at 6:26 p.m.
With the sun expected to set at 7:44 p.m., Ben Crane would have little time to regroup between his first shot on Thursday and his Friday start.
Bubble Boy Ben Crane has a 7:10pm tee time. He'll also have a 7:10am time... to continue his first round.— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) August 22, 2013
The PGA Tour’s videographer extraordinaire and one-quarter of the Golf Boys’ solo musical venture debuted to critical acclaim after finishing at even through his first two holes.
In other news, Rory McIlroy’s roller-coaster year continued as the third-ranked golfer posted three double-bogeys. Despite that,he will start his second round at even-par.
"Colorful," McIlroy told PGATour.com about a round that also included four birdies and an eagle. "I made a few silly mistakes out there."
Still maintaining that he was "close" to regaining his 2012 player-of-the-year form, McIlroy had some observers recalling that old "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln..." joke.
"I felt like I played well," he said. "Three sixes, which obviously doesn't help. But the rest of it was actually pretty good."