The top 30 golfers in the world went back to work on Thursday afternoon at the Tour Championship by Coca Cola in Atlanta. The proud old golf course at East Lake ,where Bobby Jones was once a member, provided a stern challenge to players wanting a to win the FedEx Cup and the $10 Million prize on Sunday. There were some surprising changes to the Cup standings when the the day ended, as a few unexpected players made moves up the chart, and a few who were pegged to finish high, fell.
The marquee match-up on the afternoon was the final tee times, that featured Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. Television, and the Golf World couldn’t wait for this pairing to get underway. If drama was what they were after, it didn’t come from this group. Tiger grabbed his lunch pail , and put in a solid afternoon of work. He showed the youngster from Northern Ireland how to go about wining a Championship. Woods carded a 4 under par 66 on Day One, which by the time they played the eighteenth hole, was good enough for a share of the lead.
All though Tiger missed a couple of fairways, and greens, he made good shots around the greens, scrambled out of some of the trouble, and putted well. With only two bogeys on his card, he was able to get to the club house and tie Justin Rose for the lead. Rory on the other hand, didn’t have a bad day, nor did he have a good day. Rory appeared to me that he may have been trying to run in the sand. You know, working hard, but not really getting anywhere. The youngster shot a 1 under 69, and will be paired with Phil on Friday.
Justin Rose put on a putting clinic at East Lake Thursday, finishing his round by draining a 52 foot birdie on the eighteenth hole to claim the outright lead. After getting past a couple of bogeys on the front nine and making the turn at one under par, his putter caught fire on the back as he made birdies at 14, 15 and 18. He said in his interview after the round, the greens were in magnificent shape. Justin Rose and Tiger Woods will be in the final pairing on Friday.
The new Bermuda grass has done well since the re-seeding, and the greens are running around 12 on the Stimpmeter. Although they were putting very consistent, the players were giving the downhill putts a bunch of respect. Many putts were left short on the downhill putts because they didn’t want those five foot come-backers for par.
Scott Piercy, who began the day in the 30th and last position, was the biggest upward mover on the day. He had gotten it to 5 under par, and sole possession of the tournament lead through 17 holes. A disaster at the 18th hole resulted in a double bogey, and dropped him to 3 under par in a four way tie for third place with Matt Kuchar, Steve Stricker, and Bo Van Pelt. Piercy will tee off with Van Pelt on Friday.
The biggest loser on the day was Nick Watney. He quickly made up for an opening bogey at the first hole with a birdie at four to get him back to even par. Watney had a disaster on the fifth hole, which was a par 5 that was converted to a par 4, and the toughest hole at East Lake, where he put up a big number. The double bogey was the beginning of a terrible afternoon that ended at 5 over par 75, and dropped him to last place in the points standings.
Watney was passed over for the Ryder Cup after a very mediorce season. A win at the Barclays put him back in the conversation, but his season long problems returned at the Duetche Bank where he finished tied for 20th, and again at Crooked Stick where he finished in a tie for 45th place.
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