Atlanta, GA – Tiger Woods posted a 4-under 66 on Thursday to share the first-round lead of the Tour Championship with Justin Rose at East Lake Golf Club.
This is the final event of the Playoffs and Woods is second in FedExCup Playoff points. Anyone in the top five heading into this week can win the Cup with a victory at the Tour Championship.
Woods already won the FedExCup twice, but on Thursday, he bested his newest rival.
Looking more like buddies playing a weekend round together, Woods and Rory McIlroy, who leads the points race thanks to back-to-back wins at the Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship, played in the final pairing based on their standings in the race.
On Thursday, Woods topped McIlroy by three shots.
"I've been playing well," said Woods. "Most of the summer, I've really played well. I'm very pleased with the things Sean (Foley, Woods' swing coach) and I are working on. It's just a continuation of it."
Rose is a distant 24th in the points race, but he can take solace in what happened last year.
Ranked 25th at the start of the week, Bill Haas won the Tour Championship, then, after a confluence of events and finishes, he walked off with $10 million and the FedExCup.
"From the FedExCup point of view, it's a position of having nothing to lose, really. Obviously, I'd like to be much higher up the rankings," said Rose.
Scott Piercy had the longest odds to win the FedExCup this week. He showed up Thursday in 30th, but he carded a 3-under 67 and is tied for third with Bo Van Pelt, Matt Kuchar and Steve Stricker.
Hunter Mahan, who lost a playoff to Haas last year, Adam Scott, Robert Garrigus, Zach Johnson and Brandt Snedeker, who is fifth in the standings, and therefore, controls his destiny this week, are knotted in seventh at 2-under 68.
Woods controls his destiny in terms of the FedExCup and wasted little time in getting into red figures Thursday. He drained a 21-footer for birdie at the second and followed with a 5-foot birdie putt at three.
Trouble loomed for Woods at the fourth. From the fairway, Woods' approach landed short in a greenside bunker. He didn't reach the green with his sand shot and made bogey.
At the par-5 ninth, Woods landed in a bunker with his second and he blasted out to four feet. He converted the birdie effort and made the turn at 2-under par.
Woods barely missed the green at the 12th, but it didn't matter. Woods chipped in for birdie, but hit a wild drive at the 14th and left with a bogey.
That was the last hiccup for Woods on this Thursday.
He came up short of the putting surface with his second at the par-5 15th. Woods pitched his third inside four feet and made the birdie putt to get back to 3-under.
At the next hole, Woods knocked his second to eight feet. He poured in the birdie putt to match Rose in first.
Woods could've easily taken the outright lead late. He had a good look at birdie at 17, but his 17-footer lipped out on the left side. Woods hit his tee ball to 14 feet at the par-3 closing hole. He couldn't make the birdie try, but it was still a great round from Woods.
"This golf course was, I think, probably gettable today," said Woods. "The ball was flying forever. You drive it in the fairway, you can be aggressive. I hit a lot of good putts, too."
Rose was 1-over par after a terrible drive at seven led to a bogey. He polished off his opening side with a 7-foot birdie putt at eight and a tap-in at No. 9.
The Englishman parred his first four on the back nine, then chipped in for birdie short of the 14th. Rose hit a spectacular second to 11 feet at the par-5 15th and 2-putted for birdie.
Rose got to 4-under in an unlikely manner. At the last, he rolled in a 52- footer for birdie, which was good enough for a share of the first-round lead.
"Last year I didn't factor in the tournament, and this year maybe being a little bit looser out there is going to help me," said Rose. "I think I've only got this tournament on my mind. A lot of the other guys have two trophies on their minds."
Rose is referring to next week's Ryder Cup. He will represent Europe. His fellow co-leader is on team U.S.A. and, in fact, all 12 Americans are in the field. Only five European players are at East Lake.
Phil Mickelson is fourth in the race for the FedExCup and shot a 1-under 69 to join McIlroy and many others in a tie for 12th.
Nick Watney is the last player in the top five by virtue of his win at The Barclays. Watney struggled to a 5-over 75 and is dead last in the field of 30.
NOTES: Woods ranks second on the PGA Tour in scoring average for the first two rounds...He won this event twice and won the FedExCup in 2007 and 2009...Eighteen of the 30 players broke par on Thursday...Haas didn't qualify this year to defend his title.