Tiger Woods, seeking his first victory in five years, fired his lowest PGA opening round since 1999 -- a eight-under-par 62 -- to seize the clubhouse lead Thursday at the BMW Championship.
The 14-time major champion, nearing the end of his comeback campaign from spinal fusion surgery, made seven birdies and an eagle against a lone bogey to stand atop the early leaderboard at Aronimink Golf Club near Philadelphia.
It was the low round of the season for Woods, two shots under his closing 64 at last month’s PGA Championship, and his lowest round in any PGA event since a 61 in the second round of the 2013 WGC Bridgestone Invitational — his most recent triumph.
Woods had not fired a better opening round in a PGA event since a 61 at the 1999 Byron Nelson Classic.
The 42-year-old American has made progress all season in his recovery from nagging back pain, leading in the final round of July’s British Open before settling for a share of sixth and taking second in last month’s PGA Championship.
Woods, whose 79 PGA titles are three shy of Sam Snead’s record, began on the back nine and opened with a 20-foot birdie putt at the par-4 10th hole, then added back-to-back birdie putts from 13 feet at 12 and 10 feet at the 13th hole.
At the par-5 16th, Woods landed the ball five feet from the cup on his second shot and rolled in the eagle putt, then pulled off another back-to-back birdie run at the 18th and first holes, the latter from 13 feet.
“I made a few putts today and also from right out of the gate with birdies at 10 and 12 and 13 so that was a nice way to get things rolling,” Woods said.
“Then to shoot 29 on the front nine helps. It helps a lot.”
Former world number one Woods, now ranked 26th, dropped his approach inches from the hole at the par-4 seventh and tapped in for birdie, but missed the green and took bogey at the par-3 eighth then answered with a seven-foot birdie putt at 18.
Woods believes his recent decision to switch putters also paid off.
“The putter felt good and my body remembered the feel of that putter and how it swings, and I was just letting them rip on the greens,” Woods said.
“The greens also were just perfect and while a bit on the slow side, they were great.” DM