Lee Slattery (Getty Images)
Lee Slattery shot a five under par 65 on his World Golf Championships debut to lie just two shots behind leader Jim Furyk after the opening round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
The 33 year old Englishman, who only recorded his first European Tour victory at last season’s Madrid Masters, carded six birdies and only one bogey around Firestone.
Starting on the back nine, he birdied the 16th and 17th, dropped a shot at the next, then reeled off four birdies in a row – a nine iron to two feet at the third the highlight.
Only American veteran Furyk, with seven birdies, two bogeys, and an eagle at the long second, was able to surpass that effort, and Slattery feels he is now starting to come to terms with life amongst golf’s elite after eight trips to Qualifying School and a couple of years on the Challenge Tour before his breakthrough success nine months ago.
“It's been a long transition for me - I've never been a quick improver,” he said. “Some guys come out on Tour and take to it quickly; I've been a steady improver over the years. I'm 33 years old, so that's not too bad, but certainly having that win last year and playing a lot steadier, I'm starting to make the progress which I always expected to at some stage.
“I drove the ball well, only missed a couple of fairways out there and made a birdie on one of those holes, which was a bonus. I think that's the key around here, you drive the ball well, you give yourself chances and you can score around here. The greens are so pure, you hit it inside ten feet here, there's a great chance of a birdie. Today I holed my fair share of putts but still left a couple out there, but it was just a great round of golf.
“I've been playing well quite a while, just putting the four rounds together has been a bit of a problem recently. We all try and improve, and I've been swinging the club well for a while, and I'm just waiting for a week where it all clicks into place.”
World Number One Luke Donald, his fellow Englishman Simon Dyson and Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello signed for four under par rounds of 66 to share third place with American Masters winner Bubba Watson, his compatriot Ben Crane and Australian John Senden.