ATLANTA – Henrik Stenson looked like he couldn’t miss Thursday in the first round of the Tour Championship.
Tiger woods didn’t make a thing.
Stenson ran off five birdies over a six-hole stretch on the front nine at East Lake. His last birdie from 4 feet on the par-3 18th hole gave him a 6-under 64 and a one-shot lead over Masters champion Adam Scott, who shot 29 on the back nine.
There were birdies galore on a warm, relatively calm afternoon at East Lake – except for Woods.
Woods missed a short birdie putt on his opening hole that set the tone for the day. He was the only player in the 30-man field to go without a birdie. On the par 5s, Woods three-putted for par on No. 9 and missed a putt just inside 10 feet on No. 15.
It was only the seventh time in his PGA Tour career – and third time at East Lake – that he went an entire round without a birdie. Woods shot a 73, matching his highest opening round of the year on the PGA Tour. He walked past reporters without
Stenson, the No. 2 seed and the hottest player in golf over the last 3 months, and Scott (No. 3) only have to win the Tour Championship to capture the FedEx Cup and the $10 million prize.
Steve Stricker rallied late with three straight birdies for a 66, tied with Billy Horschel.
Stenson began his big run with four straight tournaments in the top 3 – including two majors and a World Golf Championship – and then won the Deutsche Bank Championship. But he was mediocre in the BMW Championship last week that left him so angry he smashed his driver on the final hole, and then smashed up a locker at Conway Farms.
Plus, he was coping with a sore wrist from last weekend that hurt so much he only played nine holes this week in practice.
But in his Tour Championship debut, his head was in the right place, his wrist felt fine, and Stenson was on top of his game like never before. He had one stretch of three birdies all within 4 feet, capped off by a 6-iron from 207 yards over water to a right pin that settled a foot away.
And he did it all in the presence of Woods, the No. 1 player in the world.
“Normally, he’s doing it to everyone else,” Stenson said.
Seventeen players broke par in the opening round.
Woods wasn’t alone in his struggles. Phil Mickelson switched to the claw grip midway through his round and nothing seemed to help. He had a 71. Nick Watney, coming off a runner-up finish in Chicago just to get into the Tour Championship, had a 72. PGA champion Jason Dufner was in last place at 74.