Golf in Ohio must bring out the best in William McGirt. One month after his first PGA Tour victory at the Memorial, McGirt looked just as good two hours up the road at the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio.
In his World Golf Championship debut, he opened with six birdies and finished with a 45-foot par for a six-under-par 64 and a three-shot lead.
An Ohio sweep?
That’s only happened four times, and McGirt guessed right at the answer.
“Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods, Tiger Woods and Tiger Woods?” he said. “That would be pretty special company.”
He had some decent company behind him after an opening round of warm sunshine and fast conditions at Firestone. Jason Day, the world’s No. 1 player, was among three players at 67, while Jordan Spieth somehow managed to post a 68 despite having only one birdie attempt (he missed) in his first 10 holes.
“I wasn’t supposed to shoot 2 under today,” Spieth said.
U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson had a U.S. Open kind of round — 15 pars, two birdies and a bogey — for a 69. His big celebration was walking off the 11th green to learn that his alma mater, Coastal Carolina, had just won the College World Series for its first national title. His golf wasn’t bad considering that he didn’t practice much last week while celebrating his first major (and his 32nd birthday) in The Bahamas.
“I didn’t expect a whole lot today,” Johnson said. “I always expect to play well, but this golf course is playing tough.”
Only 17 players of the 61-man field broke par. The first round ended with only 58 players.
Daniel Berger withdrew after his opening tee shot with a shoulder injury. Brooks Koepka withdrew after 13 holes with an ankle injury. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III, playing at Firestone for the first time since 2009, withdrew after a 78 because of what was described as a torn labrum.
The field also was missing Rory McIlroy and Masters champion Danny Willett, among several European Tour players who opted to play the French Open this week.
The most peculiar round belonged to Spieth, who said he has been in a lull the last month as he searches for something in his swing, particularly his wedges. It had the look of a score closer to 74 or 75, except that the former Masters and U.S. Open champion kept hanging in there with pars. One shot hit a tree and bounced forward over the water into a bunker. He whiffed on a 7-iron that left him a tough pitch, but he managed to save par from 8 feet.
He ended the front nine with par-saving putts from 20 feet and 25 feet.
Emiliano Grillo and Jimmy Walker also were at 67 with Day, while Spieth was joined by Rickie Fowler, Anirban Lahiri and Charley Hoffman.
Henderson opens with a 65 in Portland
Defending champion Brooke Henderson shot a seven-under 65 on Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the opening round of the LPGA Cambia Portland Classic in Oregon.
Picking up where she left off from a year ago, when Henderson shot a 21-under 267 to win her first LPGA tournament, the 18-year-old Canadian hit 16 greens and made nine birdies on a warm, cloudless day at the 6,476-yard Columbia Edgewater course.
Angela Stanford, Demi Runas and Mariajo Uribe each shot 67 to trail Henderson.
Runas, whose best career finish is a tie for 25th, and Uribe are looking for their first LPGA victories. Stanford lost in a playoff in the 2003 U.S. Women’s Open at Pumpkin Ridge, which has previously played host to the Portland Classic. Uribe and Stanford shot bogey-free rounds.
Laird leads Barracuda Championship
Martin Laird of Scotland piled up points with eight birdies on Thursday to take the first-round lead of the Barracuda Championship in Reno.
Laird is familiar with high altitude at Montreux Golf and Country Club. He came over from Scotland to play at Colorado State, so the extra distance the golf ball flies was not much of an adjustment. His final birdie on the par-five 18th hole gave him 15 points, one point ahead of Gary Woodland, Camilo Villegas and Greg Chalmers.
The Barracuda Championship uses a modified Stableford scoring system, with five points for an eagle, two points for a birdie and deductions of one point for a bogey and two points for a double bogey or worst. The top player not already eligible earns a spot in the British Open.
McIlroy struggles at French Open
Rory McIlroy shot 71 and is five shots off the lead held by Lucas Bjerregaard after the first round of the French Open at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines.
McIlroy, in the spotlight because of his decision to skip the Olympics over concerns about the Zika virus, had four birdies and four bogeys around L’Albatros course at the Le Golf National, the 2018 Ryder Cup host.
Bjerregaard shot a five-under 66, helped by his first ever hole-in-one — a seven-iron from 202 yards downwind at No. 2. The 137th-ranked Dane was playing with a new set of clubs after his own was lost in transit, and also had five birdies.