Tiger Woods put together his best nine-hole stretch of the year in the first roundof the 2018 BMW Championship on Thursday and then leveraged that to shoot an 8-under 62 and flirt with an early lead at Aronimink Golf Club. Woods went out in 29 as he started on the back nine of the course and got to 8 under through 16 but finally backed up a bit at the end with a bogey at the 17th. He birdied the last for the 62.
It was (finally?) a round where he put everything together. Woods was top five in the field at the time he finished in strokes gained from tee to green and top five in in putting with his Scotty Cameron blade back in the bag (more on that below). He hit 9-of-13 fairways, 16-of-18 greens, and his proximity to the hole was just over 20 feet from the stick.
"I made a few putts today," Woods told Steve Sands of Golf Channel. "Shooting 29 on the front nine ... helps."
Even though we've seen bits and pieces of this Tiger throughout the year in various tournaments and at intermittent times, this was as complete a round as Woods has played in 2018. That's especially true considering the circumstances (third straight playoff event) and what's at stake (climbing into the top five in the FedEx Cup rankings).
Tiger Woods: 29 on back nine (his opening nine), his lowest 9-hole total in a PGA Tour event since the 2007 Tour Championship. He won by 8 that week.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) September 6, 2018
The 29 on the front was outrageous. It just kept building and building with the crown jewel a disgusting 3-iron on the par-5 16th that led to eagle. Have mercy!
The 62 is the lowest round overall for Woods since he shot 61 at the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, which he went on to win. It's his best round of 2018 by two strokes, usurping the 64 he shot in the final round of the PGA Championship at Bellerive.
Now all of a sudden the third leg of the 2018 FedEx Cup Playoffs has been lit on fire. Woods is duking it out atop the board with Rory McIlroy, and Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose are just beyond them.
There's a lot of golf left to be played, but this is already shaping up to be one of the best events of the year after only 18 holes of play. That's apropos with Woods firing his round of the year (and last five years). If he can keep it up for the next two then Sunday is going to rock.
Here are four other takeaways from Woods' first round.
1. Scotty 2 Hotty: Woods, who has now changed putters three different times this season, returned to old faithful on Thursday. After starting the year with a Scotty Cameron blade putter, Woods switched to a TaylorMade mallet, a TaylorMade blade and now back to the Cameron.
"My body remembered the feel of that putter and how it swings," Woods told Sands. "I was just letting 'em rip on the greens."
It seemed useful! Woods gained over two strokes on the field with the Cameron and had great speeds all day. His iron play meant he could play stress free around the greens, but the putter scored early and often.
2. Hot start: One thing that has been lacking and could be a reason for the poor first round scoring average is that Woods just hasn't started quickly. Look at his last four tournaments. He's played the first five holes of each tournament in a combined 3 over. On Thursday, he played the first five holes in 3 under. That can make all the difference in the world come Sunday.
3. First round scoring: Tiger came into this week T140 in first round scoring average on the PGA Tour this year (alongside Roberto Diaz and Stephan Jaegar). Woods averaged 71.13 in 16 first rounds. He had just two rounds in the 60s in Round 1 coming in, a 68 and a 66. Now a 62 at a big boy course in an elite field. We have come a long way in a year.
4. No need for par saves. Tiger had 13 (!) looks at birdie or eagle from 20 feet and in. Like I said before, the putter scored, but it was his game from tee to green that made it possible.