• The Tour Championship, Round One

Rose emerges as thorn in Tiger's side

ESPN staff
September 20, 2012 « Jol hails Berbatov bond | Chartbeat test »
Justin Rose edged ahead with a big putt at the 18th © PA Photos
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Tour Championship leaderboard

Tiger Woods got the better of Rory McIlroy on the first day of the Tour Championship, as Justin Rose thrust himself into contention for the $10 million FedEx Cup bounty.

Woods, paired with McIlroy once again, looked far from intimidated to be playing alongside the Northern Irishman - consistently hitting approaches inside the 23-year-old, especially on the back nine, as he created birdie chance after birdie chance.

Unfortunately the American's putter was not working quite as he would have wanted, as Woods missed a number of makeable chances (not least at the 17th and 18th) that ensured he was forced to settle for a round of 66 that could have been so much more - placing him level in the clubhouse with his future Ryder Cup rival Rose.

"I played well today. It was a very consistent round, I hit the ball well and made some putts," Woods said afterwards. "This golf course demands that you flight the ball well and try and keep it below the hole - because these greens are really quick."

On the $10m on offer, he added: "Just win. Winning takes care of everything.

"I think scoring is going to be good [this week]."

At least he played better than McIlroy, however, who had to bounce back after an uncertain start to salvage a one-under par round of 69. In truth the reigning US PGA champion - making his first appearance in this event - did not quite have his 'A' game on Thursday, and a few sloppy putts prevented him from scoring any better around the testing East Lake course.

"I think we both played pretty well," McIlroy said afterwards. "Obviously Tiger shot a better score than me but the quality of the golf was pretty good.

"It was great. Small field, don't have to get too early for your tee-time, great support - I think it's a good test and it will be a great challenge these next three days."

Rose, in contrast, made his score early and then holed a wickedly-breaking 40-footer at the prodigiously long par-three 18th to sit in the clubhouse at four-under.

"Just being here at this tournament is a good feeling," Rose said afterwards. "I think 21 of the top 22 players in the world are here this week, so that gets your juices flowing to be able to play in a tournament like this and compete against the best.

He added: "From the FedEx Cup point of view, it's a position of having nothing to lose, really. Last year I didn't factor in the tournament, and this year maybe being a little bit looser out there is going to help me. I think I've only got this tournament on my mind. A lot of the other guys have two trophies on their minds."

A host of players are in the mix at three-under, including Scott Piercy, Bo Van Pelt, Matt Kuchar and Steve Stricker. Hunter Mahan and Adam Scott are among another group who opened with rounds at 68.

At the other end of the early leaderboard, Luke Donald - who was in strong contention for the $10 million bonus until almost the final hole last year - has work to do after an opening one-over par round of 71, level with US Open champion Webb Simpson and Rickie Fowler.

All three players are two shots adrift of Masters champion Bubba Watson - one of a number of other players at one-under, including Sergio Garcia and Dustin Johnson.

Open champion Ernie Els is a shot further back at two-over, along with Lee Westwood.

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