Branden Grace opened with three birdies in his first four holes but failed to maintain his strong position as he slid back to finish the first round of the Northern Trust Open one under par.
Grace, needing to strengthen his FedExCup position, birdied his second hole of the day before chipping and putting to get to -2 on the short par 4 12th. It was three birdies on the bounce after Grace hit his 70 yard approach to 10 feet before adding a fourth birdie despite not finding the 16th fairway.
After rolling in his 12 footer on his 10th hole, the multiple European Tour winner and reigning Nedbank Golf Challenge champion got himself onto the first page of the leaderboard.
A wayward drive on the fourth saw Grace drop two shots before three bogeys in a row including a three-putt bogey on the par 3 sixth. He then needed a 17 foot putt on eight to get back under par after a round that promised to vault up him the moneylist with three playoff events to come.
Louis Oosthuizen hit 11 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens in regulation, finishing at even-par for the tournament where he was joined by Rory Sabbatini. The latter has now fallen out of the projected top 100 in the race to tee it up at the Dell Technologies next week.
Also falling outside of the top 100 is Charl Schwartzel, who is three over par after he hit just 8 of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens in regulation on Thursday.
American Shaun O’Hair missed the cut last week and saw his FedExCup standing slip to No. 121, meaning he has to play well this week or his season is over. His immediate goal is to advance to the third stage of events because the BMW Championship is at Aronimink outside Philadelphia, where O’Hair is a member.
He drilled a 3-wood from 284 yards to 6 feet for eagle on No. 3. He hammered another 3-wood on the par-5 17th to 10 feet, settling for a two-putt birdie. That carried O’Hair to a 5-under 66, giving him a share of the lead with Kevin Tway, Jamie Lovemark and Vaughn Taylor.
Woods, playing for the first time since his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, had a pair of birdies, a pair of bogeys, a lot of pars and a 71. He was five shots behind and in a tie for 60th. After a rough start off the tee, Woods wound up hitting nine of 14 fairways. He just never got it close enough for good looks at birdie.
‘Just didn’t have the situations where I had the full club and I could go ahead and take a rip at it and start being aggressive and going after these flags,’ Woods said. ‘I kept having to play a little defensive because I was taking more club, trying to shape it and take spin off. One of those days.’
Woods is back in the FedExCup Playoffs for the first time in five years, and it was his first time at Ridgewood Country Club since 2010. Thousands came to watch him play, and they heard plenty of cheers from the group behind him.
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