AKRON, Ohio — Ian Poulter was annoyed after realizing he had never finished better than 13th at Firestone Country Club, so he took a step toward doing something about it Thursday with an 8-under-par 62 and a one-shot lead in the Bridgestone Invitational.
Tiger Woods found himself fighting his swing on the way to a 66.
Such was the difference of two players with vastly different memories on the stout South Course at Firestone.
Woods is an eight-time winner of the event, already a PGA Tour record for most victories on one course. Back at this World Golf Championship for the first time in four years, he made a 50-foot birdie putt and two other long putts to offset some average iron play.
It was his best opening round of the year, and he needed it just to keep pace with everyone else on a soft and vulnerable course that led to 45 players in the 71-man field breaking par. The average score was 68.37, the lowest for the opening round at Firestone since it became a WGC in 1999 and the lowest for the first round of any PGA Tour event this season.
"I didn't quite hit it as well as I wanted to," Woods said. "But I fought out a score today, which was good."
Luke List — the only one of the four Baylor School graduates on the PGA Tour playing this event — was tied for seventh after a bogey-free 65.
Rickie Fowler and Kyle Stanley each shot a 63 and were tied for second, while Patrick Cantlay, Si Woo Kim and Jon Rahm were another shot behind. Joining List in seventh were Jason Day, Anirban Lahiri, Marc Leishman, Rory McIlroy, Kevin Na and Justin Thomas.
Poulter is playing Firestone for the 14th time, and he came across a sheet showing his yearly results. He has never missed the cut, mainly because there is no cut at these tournaments. He tied for 13th his first year, 10 shots behind, and it never got any better.
"Yeah, it fires me up," Poulter said after saving par from a bunker on his last hole for a bogey-free round. "It's frustrating to look at. I actually thought I had a better finish than that, so it really annoyed me. I wrote them all down; they were that bad. I was like, 'Seriously, how can you play a good golf course this many times and not really have a result?' So not to even finish in the top 10 is pretty poor."
It's just a start, but it was a good one. His 62 matched the lowest first-round score at Firestone, first set by Adam Scott in 2011, and it was one off the course record for any round.
Poulter missed a 10-foot putt on No. 8, his second-to-last hole. He was in no mood to quibble.
"If you would have offered me this at the start of the day, I would have snapped your arm for it," he said. "Yeah, we can be greedy and say I'd love to have holed that putt on 8 to have tied the record. But 8 under par's a pretty decent round for me around this golf course."
Woods seems to put together decent scores even when he feels his game is slightly off.
"It's nice to shoot rounds like I did at the (British) Open and like I did today, put together rounds where I may not feel the best, but I'm able to post a score," Woods said. "That's how you win golf tournaments. You're not going to have your best all four days, and it's a matter of that bad day being 2-, 3-under par instead of being 2-, 3-over par. And then everyone has their hot days."
Mickelson vs. Woods: Lefty says it's on
Phil Mickelson confirmed an ESPN report that an exhibition match against Tiger Woods is set for Thanksgiving weekend at Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas, but those were all the details he provided.
Golf.com reported last month that Mickelson and Woods, who have combined for 19 major championships and 122 victories on the PGA Tour, were contemplating a winner-take-all $10 million match.
The ESPN report, which came out early Thursday, did not mention prize money, corporate support or television details.
Woods said he had nothing more to add: "We haven't signed anything. Nothing's confirmed."
Lee in charge at Women's British Open
LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England — The big thing missing for Minjee Lee in her impressive season is a strong performance at a major championship.
She might get it at the Women's British Open.
The No. 8-ranked Australian shot a 7-under 65 — including a right-to-left putt for eagle from 25 feet on the par-5 15th hole — to lead by one stroke after the first round at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club.
Mamiko Higa was a shot behind after a 66, while five players — Georgia Hall, Teresa Lu, Lee Mi-hyang, Pornanong Phatlum and Park Sung-hyun — were another stroke back in third on a day that started with showers and a breeze before brightening up. Tied for fifth at 68 were Sandra Gal, Mina Harigae and Lydia Ko.
After finishing 25th, 34th and 25th in the first three majors of 2018, Lee is finally in a good position to seriously challenge for a first major title, especially if she keeps up her impressive performance on the greens after needing only 26 putts in the first round. Lee's best result at a major is a tie for third at the ANA Inspiration last year.
Michelle Wie withdrew midway through her first round because of a right hand injury. She was 7 over after 12 holes.
Wie, who is the 18th-ranked women's golfer in the world, wrote in a post on Twitter she "gave it all" but "couldn't handle the pain any longer."
Quartet in lead at Fiji International
SIGATOKA, Fiji — New Zealand's Ben Campbell and Australians Nick Cullen, Andrew Dodt and Jarryd Felton each shot a 5-under 67 and shared the lead after the first round of the Fiji International.
They were two shots ahead of two more Australians — Maverick Antcliff and Matthew Griffin — in the European Tour event.
Only five of 18 players who signed for under-par opening rounds played in the afternoon, when conditions were windy, but that's when Campbell made seven birdies. Cullen, Dodt and Felton took advantage of calmer conditions in the morning, collectively posting two eagles and just two bogeys.