Tour Report: Notes from inside the ropes

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Shamus/Getty ImagesJim Furyk appears mentally fresh at Firestone, especially after a Thursday 63.

By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

AKRON, Ohio – Jim Furyk says he likes to think he is past the disappointment of the U.S. Open. He also admits it might still be in his memory. Furyk has not played particularly well since his finish at the Olympic Club, coming off a missed cut at last week’s RBC Canadian Open and time in Florida for what he called "mental refreshment."

He certainly was fresh on Thursday. Furyk hit 13 greens and took 25 putts in shooting 63. He one-putted the last two greens after making bogey at the seventh, including a birdie at the eighth. A win this week would certainly erase any Olympic Club memories.

Tiger: Our seven-time champion is seven shots back. Tiger Woods hit the ball well on his first nine holes and shot 1 under. Woods then birdied 10 and 11, only to finish with three bogeys in his last six holes. What went wrong? Woods bogeyed the 13th with only a wedge into the green, 16 was a mess the whole way around after driving into the trees and 18 was a three-putt bogey including a miss from 2 feet, 9 inches. That is maximizing your score for a round in which Woods hit 14 greens but stroked 33 putts. Coming into the tournament, Woods had putted from 3 feet or less 320 times this year and made 315 of them. 

Up to the billing: Luke Donald began his day with a 129-yard wedge into the 10th green, which he hit to within 6 inches. He carried that momentum into the next two holes making two more birdies. It’s a welcome change for Donald this year, as the world’s No. 1-ranked player is ranked 162nd on the PGA TOUR in first-round scoring average with an average of 72.2. The quick start for Donald might be bad news for the rest of the field.

Putting leader: Ben Crane says he has been on the opposite end several times – times when he has hit the ball well and got nothing out of the round. On Thursday, Crane hit just five fairways and eight greens, yet shot 66. He attacked the course with his putter, taking a tournament-low 23 putts. Crane says he knows his ballstriking must improve to stay in contention but it’s nice to post a good score on an off day.

Bubba ball: Here’s a shocker, Bubba Watson leads the tournament in driving distance at 351.5 yards. OK, that’s not a surprise but what is nice are the 14 greens Bubba hit. Watson has the ability to overpower a golf course with his length and he used it effectively in the opening round. Bubba combined the length with 29 putts, resulting in five birdies and an eagle. Watson hit his drive 339 yards at the uphill second, leaving just 181 yards into the green. He hit it to 8 feet, 3 inches and made the eagle putt. When Bubba hits his driver well, he is difficult to beat.

Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio and is inside the ropes this week at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.