Tiger enjoys bogey-free Thursday on return to WGC-Bridgestone

Tiger Woods' hopes of maintaining his fine record at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational were boosted by a strong start on Thursday.

Starting at the 10th hole, Tiger Woods had three birdies on the front nine, capped by a 50-foot putt from just off the green on the par-four 18th.    -  (Getty Images)

Tiger Woods affirmed his affinity for Firestone Country Club's South Course, carding an opening-round 66 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio.

Starting at the 10th hole, Woods had three birdies on the front nine, capped by a 50-foot putt from just off the green on the par-four 18th. 

And the eight-time winner overcame waywardness off the tee on his second nine, scrambling with precise irons and a more dependable putter as he went bogey-free for the day.

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Yet Woods, whose last PGA Tour win came at this event five years ago, is hoping to improve on what he considered a mixed day at a favoured course.

"I kind of fought out a score today. I didn't have it with my ball-striking but just hung in there," he said. "I putted well. I was just trying to get my mind wrapped around how the ball was going to roll out.

"This has been something special for me to play here over the years. I've been here nearly 20 years and I've just thoroughly enjoyed it.

"It's just such a small-town feel here that we don't usually get to experience."

Other big names also went low, however, as Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Marc Leishman carded matching five-under 65s to trail first-round leader Kyle Stanley by two shots.

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"Any time you get around this course with no bogeys, it's a good day. I scrambled good today," McIlroy said.