Retief Goosen was satisfied with a solid start that saw the South African just one shot off the lead during the opening exchanges of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio.
Goosen, making his 12th appearance at the third World Golf Championship of the year, shot a three under par 67 at Firestone Country Club to sit in a tie for second place as Thursday progressed, and despite continuing to battle a longstanding back problem the 14-time European Tour Champion made six birdies to negate a double bogey at the third and a further dropped shot at the par four 13th.
“Today was good,” Goosen reflected afterwards. “The course is about as good as I've seen it here. The greens are running like Augusta speeds and the fairways are quick, as well. It's pretty much as good as I've seen it.
“The rough is up, too, so it's quite hard to hit some of these fairways; the slopes in the fairways make it hard to keep it out of the rough.”
The two-time US Open Champion found over 70 per cent of greens in regulation during the first round, but it was his putting on the lightning-fast Akron greens that pleased him the most.
He continued: “I like this golf course. For some reason I putt better on quicker greens, so I feel like I can make a better stroke when I just have to stroke it and not hit it.
“The greens are perfect here. If you hit it on the right line, it's good, but they're also very tricky. There's a lot of break on them, so it's hard to get the right lines, as well.”
Goosen’s round was particularly impressive considering for the last year the Pietersburg native has been struggling with a persistent back injury that has seen him need to partake in cortisone injections to combat the pain.
“I’m about five out of ten health-wise at the moment,” he said. “My physio Cornel is doing a good job keeping me on the course at the moment. I am in discussions with a number of doctors to see what sort of options there are with the back but at the moment we've just got to keep grinding away and play well.”
Spain’s Sergio Garcia, whose best finish at the championship came with a tied seventh place in his first appearance in 1999, matched Goosen’s first round score of 67 but was left somewhat disappointed after making a bogey on the last.
“You get that horrible feeling in your mouth on the last. After hitting a great drive, which is probably the hardest thing to do on that hole, then you hit nine iron in and unfortunately bogey.
“But other than that I felt like I played nicely and hit a good amount of good shots. I could have putted better, there's no doubt; there were some good opportunities. But shooting 67 on this course is not a bad thing.”