O’Hair leads, but aware Tiger lurks
Sean O’Hair is in the lead after the first round of the Tour Championship, but he is mindful of the threat on his heels.
Sean O’Hair is in the lead after the first round of the Tour Championship, but he is mindful of the major threat on his heels and he is not surprised to see Tiger Woods leading the chasing pack with fellow major winners Padraig Harrington and Stewart Cinkl.
“Nothing surprises me when it comes to Tiger,” said O’Hair after opening with a four-under par 66 at East Lake Golf Club in an event that now established as the FedEx Cup.
“I don’t take anything he does for granted.
“The thing that I’ve learned is that no matter what situation I’m in, I’ve just got to go out and play good golf. That’s all there is to it.
“If you go out and play good golf, hopefully at the end of the day you’re right there. But you’re not going to play average golf against him and do anything worthwhile.”
With not only a $1.35m first prize on the line but also a $10m bonus to the FedEx Cup standings champion, there is plenty to keep the big guns motivated in Georgia this weekend.
As the current standings leader Woods is in pole position in that regard, a win on Sunday for his sixth title of the year also guarantees the mega bonus.
O’Hair, lying seventh in the standings, and Ireland’s Harrington, lying sixth, both need a victory and also Woods to finish third or lower, O’Hair also requiring second-placed Steve Stricker to go the same way as the world number one.
All of the above bar world number two Stricker will be happy with their progress in that regard, with Harrington continuing to mine a rich seam of recent form.
“This is quite exciting for me because obviously I’ve had a poor year for the first six or seven months and I was doing other things shall we say,” Harrington said.
“I have to turn it all around now.
“I’ve had a good few weeks and winning here this week would turn it into a spectacular year.
“I kind of like the idea of that, kind of sneaking in and having a great year.”
The three-time major winner’s five successive top-10 finishes propelled him to sixth place in the standings and he began the right way in Georgia, reaching four under par at halfway on the par-70, 7,154-yard course.
That gave the Dubliner an early share of the lead with O’Hair, who sank a 56-foot birdie putt at the fourth, with Open champion Cink having already returned to the clubhouse with a three-under 67.
Harrington’s only bogey of the day came at the par-five 15th hole, where he failed to get out of a greenside bunker at the first attempt, while Woods had a mid-round wobble following a birdie at the third, hitting bogeys at six and eight that took him to one over par before sending down five birdies in the next seven holes to move right onto O’Hair’s shoulder.
Woods was grateful he got back on track to achieve his target for the day.
“I felt if I shot under par for the day, I’d be fine,” the world number one said.
“There aren’t going to be a lot of guys under par.
“Luckily I birdied nine and then kind of got it going on the back nine. I accomplished my goal of shooting under par for the day.”
Open champion Cink, who began the tournament with only a slim chance of landing the big bonus prize from 26th place in the standings, had been first to hit the front at four under after nine holes in his home state, having driven his kids to school on his way to the course.
One birdie followed on the back nine, book-ended with bogeys at the 13th and 15th holes and Cink reached the clubhouse with a 67 at three under.
Fellow 2009 major winner Lucas Glover, the US Open champion, finished a shot further back with a 68 with South Africa’s Retief Goosen and Americans Dustin Johnson and Steve Marino carding 69s.
England’s Luke Donald, the only other European in the field besides Harrington, carded a level-par 70, to join a large group including Americans Stricker, Jim Furyk and Zach Johnson.
A win for Woods, Stricker, second in the standings, and Furyk, third, would guarantee them the FedEx Cup, as it would fourth-placed Johnson and fifth place Heath Slocum, who has much work to do to make that a reality after an opening 73.
ALLTHE FIRST ROUND SCORES
(USA unless stated, par 70):
66 Sean O’Hair
67 Tiger Woods, Stewart Cink, Padraig Harrington (Irl)
68 Lucas Glover
69 Dustin Johnson, Steve Marino, Retief Goosen (Rsa)
70 Steve Stricker, Nick Watney, Zach Johnson, Marc Leishman (Aus), John Senden (Aus), Luke Donald (Eng), Scott Verplank
71 Hunter Mahan, Jerry Kelly, Jason Dufner, Ernie Els (Rsa), Y.E. Yang (Kor)
72 Kenny Perry, Jim Furyk, Brian Gay, Mike Weir (Can), Angel Cabrera (Arg)
73 Phil Mickelson, Kevin Na, Heath Slocum
74 David Toms
75 Geoff Ogilvy (Aus)
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