Friday, August 22, 2014
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Tiger Woods battles bad back and wet weather in opening round of The Barclays

Tiger Woods, with a slippery, par-saving putt on his last hole of the opening round at The Barclays, heaved a sigh of relief that his nearly 11-hour day on and off the links was over and looked forward to some relief for his aching back.

"We’re done," Woods told Golf Channel after shooting a flawless, 4-under 67 at Liberty National Golf Course to put himself firmly into contention for his first-ever win in the first of four 2013 FedEx Cup playoff events. "It was a long day and tomorrow will be a short one and then Saturday will be pretty much a marathon."

The world No. 1, dealing with a stiff back and two lengthy weather delays in Thursday’s kickoff to the season-ending chase for the cash, teed off at 8:16 a.m. ET and dropped his last putt some 10 hours and 45 minutes later. He winced and stretched throughout the round and was happy, finally, to call it a day.

"It [his back] was a bit stiff this afternoon in the third restart," Woods said about his most recent owie, which he blamed on a soft hotel mattress. "I’ll get a little treatment tonight and I’ll be good."

Woods, who made his way around the re-imagined Liberty National Golf Course with little trouble, had it in cruise control until the final hole, when a wayward approach shot on the par-4 ninth (his 18th hole), landed in thick, green-side rough. It was only Tiger’s fifth missed green on a day when he made three straight birdies on his front nine, hit 10 of 14 fairways, and needed just 27 putts.

After leaving himself about a five-footer for par, Woods’ ball did a victory lap around the cup before ducking out of sight.

"The greens were way more receptive [after the rain that halted play twice on Thursday]," Woods said. "You could be aggressive. None of these flags were something you could fear."

The world No. 1 in the official rankings as well as FedEx Cup points, Woods is playing the first two rounds in Jersey City with Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker, second and third, respectively, in playoff points. Kuchar ended his long day a shot ahead of Woods and two shots back of the leader in the clubhouse, Kevin Stadler. Snedeker will enter Friday’s second round at 1-over for his troubles.

In the meantime, some of the names starting their Thursday rounds at the cocktail hour were David Lynn, Luke Donald, and Tim Clark at 5:42 p.m.; Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, and Harris English at 6:04 p.m.; and Phil Mickelson, Bill Haas, and Billy Horschel at 6:26 p.m.

With the sun expected to set at 7:44 p.m., this year’s Bubble Boy, Ben Crane, would have little time to regroup between his first shot on Thursday and his Friday start.

At even through just two holes in the evening wave, at least the PGA Tour’s videographer extraordinaire and one-quarter of the Golf Boys’ solo musical venture debuted to critical acclaim.

Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy’s roller-coaster year continued, as the third-ranked golfer posted three double-bogeys but will start his second round at even-par.

"Colorful," McIlroy told PGATour.com about a round that also included four birdies and an eagle. "I made a few silly mistakes out there."

Maintaining, as he has all season, that he was "close" to regaining his 2012 player-of-the-year form, McIlroy had some observers recalling that old "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln..." joke.

"I felt like I played well," he said. "Three sixes, which obviously doesn't help. But the rest of it was actually pretty good."

And then there was No. 2, who did all he could to live up his Phil the Thrill billing.

Shortly after Woods bent down, ever so gingerly, to retrieve his tee on No. 8, Mickelson, with a 6:26 p.m. twilight special tee time, stuck his nail in the ground for the first time and promptly splashed down in the creek snaking the length of the first fairway.

Finding a green-side bunker with his third shot, after taking a drop and a penalty, Lefty salvaged a bogey on No. 1 and recovered to get to 1-under by the time the horn blew at 7:43 p.m. finally halting play for the day.


This article originally appeared on SBNation.

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