Rose takes early lead as Woods takes step back
AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Justin Rose is on a roll heading into another major, missing only two greens Friday for a 3-under 67 that gave him the early lead in the Bridgestone Invitational.
For Tiger Woods, it was a small step back.
Rose had a one-shot lead over Marc Leishman (69) from the early wave at Firestone, which still has not recovered from being saturated with rain at the start of the week, and with more rain in the forecast for the weekend.
Woods hit only four fairways and couldn’t make a putt, leading to a 71 that put him seven shots out of the lead.
“I didn’t hit the ball well. I didn’t putt well. I didn’t do anything well,” Woods said. “The only thing I did well was I fought hard. Grinded hard. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a very good day.”
Rose appears to be peaking at just the right time. Then again, he thought that was the case last month before the British Open.
He won the Quicken Loans National at Congressional, and then he won the Scottish Open going into the third major of the year. But he never got it going at Royal Liverpool, not helped by being on the tough side of the draw, and he finished 12 shots behind Rory McIlroy.
The Bridgestone Invitational is a World Golf Championship, though it’s tough to ignore the PGA Championship next week at Valhalla.
“I’m feeling good about peaking at this time of the year,” said Rose, who was at 8-under 132. “Every week is big. You could argue a major championship in the middle of it all is the one you’d really love to peak for next week. But at the same time, there’s not a bad golf tournament now for about two months. Looking forward to the whole stretch.”
Rickie Fowler, a runner-up in the last two majors, had another 67 and was two shots behind. Patrick Reed had a 68 and was another stroke back in what could shape up to be a big week. Now that Dustin Johnson is out of golf for the rest of the season, Reed has moved up one spot to No. 9 in the Ryder Cup standings.
The top nine earns spots on the U.S. team after the PGA Championship.
Woods, meanwhile, is still trying to get his game on track after missing three months because of back surgery. He is the defending champion and an eight-time winner at Firestone, though this is only his third tournament since his return.
He opened with a 69 at the British Open and had to make a birdie putt on the 18th hole the next day just to make the cut.
This wasn’t so bad — it just felt that way.
Woods opened with a birdie, and then went 11 holes before he made another one. He couldn’t hit the fairway, and rarely made putts. That’s a bad combination at Firestone. He made bogey on the par-5 second hole with a poor tee shot into the rough, and a third shot into a greenside bunker. It was only the third time Woods had made bogey at No. 2 in the 16 years he has been playing this golf course.
Woods has been wild off the tee at Firestone before and won, sometimes by big margins. What hurt more was his putting.
“If I would have putted like I did yesterday, which is just normal, it’s a 2, 3 under round,” he said. “But I missed a bunch of putts under 15 feet, and they weren’t even close. That’s the problem. It’s not like that had the ‘go in’ look. They just weren’t very good.”
Woods still isn’t ruling out his chances of another win, especially if the course stays soft with rain.
“I’m only seven back,” he said. “That’s plenty doable on this golf course over the weekend.”