NORTON, Mass. — Keegan Bradley managed to forget about the way he played last week and started a new FedEx Cup playoff event Friday with high hopes.
Tiger Woods switched putters and stayed in the middle of the pack.
Bradley opened the Dell Technologies Championship with a 4-under 67 on Friday, good enough in breezy conditions at the TPC Boston to share the early lead with Chris Kirk and Beau Hossler. Depending on how the late starters fared, it would be the highest 18-hole score to lead at the TPC Boston since the tournament began in 2003.
Five days ago, Bradley played in the final group at The Northern Trust and closed with a 78. What made it sting even more is that Bradley hasn’t won in six years, and another Ryder Cup is approaching with his name not even being mentioned.
At least he didn’t have to wait long to fix whatever went wrong.
“I’m right back up there again,” Bradley said. “To be honest, I was really bummed out, and then just a couple of days went by and I didn’t care anymore. It was tough, because I felt like that was my day to kind of tell everybody that maybe I was back and I was here to stay. And I may have put too much pressure on myself. But it’s nice to come right back out and play quickly. So I didn’t have to wait a week or two weeks. And that was great.”
Bradley opened with four birdies in eight holes and then held his own on the back nine as the wind began to gust.
Woods had a far less auspicious start by changing clubs on the 10th tee to start his round, though it wasn’t indecision. His caddie accidentally switched the head covers on the 3-wood and 5-wood while they were on the range. No matter. Woods sent his preferred club, the 3-wood, into the bushes on the left and made bogey. He was 3 over for the round until he started pecking away, including a tough par save on his penultimate hole.
Woods switched to a new putter that resembles the one with which he won all but one of his majors. It wasn’t a reaction to finishing in a tie for 40th at Ridgewood Country Club, saying instead that TaylorMade had been working on this model the last few months.
Even so, it remains a struggle to get all components of his game working. The putting kept his score from being worse. Woods instead struggled with his irons, though the wind had a lot to do with that, and failed to break par in the opening round for the 10th time in his last 11 tournaments.
“I putted beautifully today, I really did,” Woods said. “I hit a lot of good putts, and just have to give myself more looks out of them. I didn’t hit the ball close enough.”
Dustin Johnson also started poorly, but the world’s No. 1 player turned it around. Starting on No. 10, he ran off three straight birdies around the turn, had his momentum stall by missing a short par putt, added two birdies late and shot 68.
Johnson was one shot behind, alone with Xander Schauffele and Webb Simpson. It’s a big week for Schauffele as the final tournament before U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk announces three of his four picks. Schauffele finished 12th in the standings.
He played alongside Jordan Spieth, who also could use a big week. Spieth already is on the Ryder Cup team. The 25-year-old Texan is running out of tournaments to avoid a winless year for the first time since 2014. He also, and more urgently, wants to be at East Lake for the Tour Championship.
Spieth started the postseason at No. 43 and moved up 10 spots. He has two weeks to crack the top 30, and would love nothing more than to not have that hanging over him at the BMW Championship next week.
“Ideally this week, play well, have a chance to win and not worry about the rest of that,” he said.
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