Stenson in contention as Simpson leads

8/1/2013 7:42:00 PM
Henrik Stenson  (Getty Images)
Henrik Stenson (Getty Images)

Henrik Stenson continued his rich vein of form with a flawless five under par 65 in the first round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club.

The Swede enjoyed a fine fortnight in Scotland last month, finishing third in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and runner-up in The Open Championship at Muirfield, and picked up where he left off with a birdie-eagle start in Akron.

He finished the round one shot shy of American Webb Simpson and one ahead of a group of three players which included Tiger Woods, who started well at a venue that has given him seven victories.

Stenson said: “It's not the worst way to start a round at Akron. On the first, I was in the left rough, but played a really nice lob wedge to five feet, a high hooky one to take a bit of spin off and get the extra yardage I needed, and knocked it in from five feet. 

“And then I hit a three wood and a three iron off the back of the green on the second. It was a really slick putt and it was going in with some pace, so I think I would have been a nice ten footer coming back up if it didn't hit the back of the cup. That was a lovely start. 

“Then I played nicely most of the way around, had some chances, missed a few here and there, but I was in decent position to get back into play.  A five under bogey-free around here is not something you do every day, I guess, so I'm very pleased with the start of the tournament.” 

The 37 year old, who finished three shots behind Phil Mickelson at Muirfield, has not played in the limited-field event since 2010, when he finished in 80th and last place.

"In 2010 I played here with pneumonia I didn't know about. I saved Tiger from finishing last though, which I'm sure he appreciated," Stenson joked.

Woods finished joint 78th on that occasion but enjoyed a more productive start this time, and at four under shares third spot with Englishman Chris Wood, who prepared for the event at his home course of Long Ashton in Bristol and expressed his thanks to greenkeeping staff by leaving some "cider vouchers" behind the bar.

"I have to mention James and the greenkeepers at my home club of Long Ashton for their help last week," Wood said.

"They double-cut and rolled the greens for me to make them very quick. I just hope the members did not complain too much. As a means of compensation, I made sure cider vouchers were left behind the bar for everyone to enjoy a drink."

Compatriots Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood, both third in The Open, carded rounds of 69 and 71 respectively.

World Number Three Rory McIlroy, US Open Champion Justin Rose and Mickelson were among the later starters, with McIlroy one under after six holes and playing partners Rose and Mickelson one over and level par respectively after five.

McIlroy dropped to two over par after a bogey on the eighth was followed by a double bogey on the tenth, but at least repaired some of the damage with a birdie from nine feet on the 12th.

The best golf from the afternoon starters was coming from his Ryder Cup team-mate Luke Donald, who birdied the first, third and fifth and then chipped in for another birdie on the seventh.

Donald also saved par on the ninth courtesy of his seventh single putt of the front nine to lie four under, two behind Simpson.