Flying start keeps Stenson on course

8/1/2013 10:55:00 PM
Henrik Stenson  (Getty Images)
Henrik Stenson (Getty Images)
A blistering start to his opening round saw Henrik Stenson maintain his fine recent form with a five under par 65 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club.

The Swede, a runner-up in The Open Championship a week after finishing third in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open recently, picked up where he left off with a birdie-eagle start in Akron.

Stenson ended day one a shot behind America’s former US Open Champion Webb Simpson, with England’s Chris Wood and Simpson’s compatriots Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore and Tiger Woods – a seven-time winner at this venue - a shot further back on four under.

“It's not the worst way to start a round at Akron,” said Stenson. “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.

“I was playing better today than I was the previous two weeks in Scotland. It was a few things I really took with me with from The Open. 

“One, I still felt like I had another 20 per cent out of my game at The Open, but I was still out contending for the win, so that's good. I felt very comfortable being out there and the way I played in the final round. That's something I will take with me for future and big events if I can put myself in that position again. 

“I’m looking forward to the rest of this week and the last Major of the year next week; golf is certainly a lot more fun when you feel like you're in control of how you're playing, than when you're out there struggling for par.”

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.

Seven of Europe’s victorious 2012 Ryder Cup team finished the day inside the top 20, with England’s Luke Donald the best placed at three under.

Ian Poulter, Paul Lawrie and Justin Rose all shot 69, while World Number Three Rory McIlroy - looking to replicate the fifth-placed finish of last year which kick-started his season - also bogeyed the last in a round of 70, the same as Peter Hanson and Francesco Molinari one better than Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Sergio Garcia.