Tiger Woods took a while to heat up, but finally got it rolling on the second nine Thursday in the opening round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.
A seven-time winner of the tournament, Tiger posted a 4-under-par 66 in warm, windy conditions on the South Course. After shooting an even-par 35 on the back nine, he toured the front nine in 4-under 31. Woods is tied for third, two strokes behind leader Webb Simpson.
"I feel very good about what I'm doing with basically my whole swing," Woods said afterward. "I hit a lot of good shots and had a really good feel for the distance today."
Paired with Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, Tiger birdied the par-4 10th hole, then dropped a stroke at the par-4 11th. He regained the shot at the par-4 14th, then bogeyed the par-5 16th hole, where he drove into a fairway bunker and could only advance the ball about 80 yards down the fairway.
Moving to the front nine, Woods birdied the par-4 first, third and fourth holes. He also reached the par-5 second hole in two, but three-putted from 85 feet for a par.
Tiger added his sixth birdie of the day at the par-4 eighth, then parred the par-4 ninth to complete his 31st sub-par round in 53 starts at Firestone. Woods hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation and used 30 putts.
"For some reason, this golf course, I just see it," Tiger said of his past success. "It's just one of those venues. I have played well and scored well."
Tiger used the new Nike VRS Covert driver for the first time in competition. He hit it eight times and found five fairways.
"It felt great," Woods said. "I've been testing it for a while and was excited to put it in my bag."
Thursday's round was his best start at Firestone since 2005, when he went on to win. Earlier this year, Tiger captured the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, marking his record 17th victory in WGC events.
"It was a little blustery today," Woods said. "The greens were soft. But at least the ball was flying. We got it out there pretty good."
Tiger, a four-time winner on the PGA TOUR this year, begins second-round play Friday on the first tee at 1:10 p.m. ET with Matsuyama.