NEWTOWN SQUARE, PENNSYLVANIA – With the glare of a scorching sun in his eyes, Tiger Woods couldn’t believe what he saw.
He finally missed a green on his 14th hole.
“Is that long?” he said to his caddie. “I thought it was perfect.”
Everything else felt that way Thursday in the BMW Championship, where Woods had his lowest score in an opening round in nearly 20 years and his best score on the PGA Tour since his last victory more than five years ago. With a bogey on his penultimate hole, he had an 8-under 62 at Aronimink.
And all that got him was a share of the lead with Rory McIlroy.
“Just the way it goes,” Woods said with a smile, caring more about a complete round of golf and a strong performance with his old putter than whether he was leading after one round in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Aronimink was never easier, not with warm temperatures and feeling even hotter. Not on a course with generous fairways and greens so soft that Woods hit a 3-iron from 242 yards that landed 8 feet in front of the hole and stopped 5 feet away next to the pin.
Woods hit nothing longer than a 9-iron into the par 4s. McIlroy relied heavily on his wedge game to make a strong bid at 59, only to make consecutive bogeys late in his round and having to settle for a 62.
Through all the sweat, through all the birdies, they managed to give Philadelphia fans a reason to cheer for golf in the hours before the Super Bowl champion Eagles opened the NFL season Thursday night against Atlanta.
“It was one of those days where it was out there,” McIlroy said.
And it was a Thursday, finally, that included Woods in the mix. He had failed to break par in the opening round at 10 of his last 11 tournaments.
“Got off to a better start than I have most of the season. And as of right now,” he said, pausing to smile, “I’m one back. Just the way it goes.”
He had just signed his card and saw that McIlroy was at 9 under, and by the time he stepped out from the hot sun and suggested another ice bath might be in order, McIlroy had dropped two shots before finishing with a two-putt birdie.
It was the lowest score for Woods since he shot 61 in the second round of the 2013 Bridgestone Invitational, which he won by seven shots for his 79th title on the PGA Tour and 90th worldwide. It remains his last victory.
Hideki Matsuyama shot a 66 and is four strokes off the pace.