He decided to become a part-time player, still finished eighth in the FedEx cup points, skipped an elk-hunting trip to Colorado to come to East Lake and shoots a 4 under to put himself in a great position. Stricker birdied 12, 14, 15 and 16. “Even though I’d rather go hunting, I think it’s pretty important, being in the position I am in,” Stricker said recently. “I still have the opportunity and the chance to win.”
When last he was in Georgia, we were debating penalty strokes for a drop at the Masters. When last he was on TV, over the past weekend, we were debating penalty strokes for an “oscillating” golf ball. On Thursday, Woods put himself behind the eight ball with a no-birdie round of 73. He was the only player in the field without a birdie. Woods declined all interview requests. Playing partner Henrik Stenson said: “He didn’t make a birdie out there. That’s very unusual. I wouldn’t say he was playing bad, but he missed — you know, it’s one of those days. Missed a couple of times in the wrong spot and made bogeys on three occasions.”
It was the tale of two nines for your 2013 Masters champion. He shot a pedestrian 1-over 36 on the front nine, but then caught fire with two three-hole stretches of birdies on holes 10-12 and 14-16 to put himself in a prime position. “I didn’t start the way I wanted, and I was really frustrated by the ninth hole. I missed three greens with wedges on the front nine and wasted all my chances to score. I hit two good shots into 10 and rolled a putt in which calmed me down, and then I just went and played and played the way I felt I could.”
LEADER: HENRIK STENSON
Birthplace: Gothenburg, Sweden
Residence: Orlando, Fla.
Wife: Emma, played golf at the University of South Carolina, they have two children.
2013 highlights: Don’t be surprised by his first-round 64. He has had seven top-10 finishes this year. His best performances include a victory at the Deutsche Bank three weeks ago, and finishes of tied for 18th in the Masters, fifth in The Players Championship, second at the British Open, tied for second at the World Golf-Bridgestone and third at the PGA Championship.
Stenson on his round: “Today, I was like 4 inches away on (No.) 4. I was 4 feet away on 5 and a foot away on 6. Just some days it works out really good for you. Of course, I had good numbers, and I hit good shots.”
Did you know: Stenson is one of eight players making his Tour Championship debut. Players who have won in their first try: Chad Campbell (2003), Bart Bryant (2005) and Bill Haas (2011).
THE TOP FIVE
These players control their destiny and will win the FedEx Cup title with a victory Sunday. Their FedEx Cup ranking, score, position and projected finish in the points race after the first round:
Rk; Player; Rd; Pos.; Projection
1; Tiger Woods; 73; 29; 3
2; Henrik Stenson; 64; 1; 1
3; Adam Scott; 65; 2; 2
4; Zach Johnson; 69; T14; 5
5; Matt Kuchar; 69; T14; 6
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