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McIlroy, Woods Share PGA Tour Lead For First Time

The two most charismatic players of their generation share top spot on a leaderboard for the first time (Photo: Getty Images)
It’s not always the case but Tiger Woods earned the right to hog the limelight at the third of the FedEx Cup playoff events in Philadelphia.

The 14-time major winner manhandled the Aronomink Golf Course for an opening 8-under 62 to share top spot on the leaderboard with an equally impressive Rory McIlroy.

The pair had the crowd in raptures on the opening day of the BMW Championship, first Woods with a first nine 29 then McIlroy with a mid-round run of six straight birdies.

Between them the game’s two most charismatic players posted 17 birdies and an eagle against just three dropped shots on a course that proved vulnerable to low scoring in hot and humid conditions.

American Xander Schauffele is outright third at 7-under with defending FedEx Cup Champion Justin Thomas among a group at 6-under and sharing fourth.

Jason Day is the best of the Australians and the only one under par after a 3-under 67 which included five birdies and an eagle but also four bogeys.

The form Australian in the playoffs to date, Cameron Smith, battled to a 1-over 71 while both Adam Scott and defending champion Marc Leishman signed for 74 to share last place.

Scott now seems unlikely to qualify for the Tour Championship and Leishman has also put his place in that field at risk with his poor play.

At 22nd in the standings heading into the week he is projected to need to finish higher than 53rd to retain his place in Atlanta so will have plenty to play for tomorrow.

But the focus of fans and media alike is on the top of the leaderboard where McIlroy and Woods share the lead in a PGA Tour event for the first time in history.

A switch back to the putter he used to win 13 of his 14 majors proved a good move for Woods as he holed several key putts in his round while for McIlroy it was a much improved wedge game that saw him capitalise on several opportunities.

“Well, I made a few putts,” Woods told Steve Sands when asked the key to his good scoring on day one.

“Right out of the gate, at 10 and 11 (Woods started on the 10th hole)…especially that one on 10, it was nice to make that one up the hill.

“And shooting 29 on front nine helps!”

He said the condition of the greens combined with the comfort of having his old putter back in the bag had given him confidence on the greens.

“The greens are perfectly smooth, just a little bit on the slow side,” he said. “They can’t get them too fast with the amount of undulation in them.

“But the putter felt good. My body remembered the feel of that putter and how it swings and obviousy it worked.”

For McIlroy it has been a frustrating season as he has driven the ball magnificently but failed to capitalise on opportunities with poor wedge play.

That trend stopped on day one as his driving was peerlees but his wedge play even better on a course he clearly has a liking for.

McIlroy told Sands that between the pro-am and his opening round he had blistered the Donald Ross designed Aronomink.

“In the pro-am I made seven birdies in a row on my back nine and shot 8-under for my last nine,” he said.

“And obviously I was 9-under through 14 today so I played a 23 hole stretch in 17-under par there. So pretty good.”

McIlroy hit 14 tee shots with his driver Thursday and the shortest was 314 yards (287 metres) leaving him several short iron approaches.

“I’ve been working on my wedge play a lot,” he said. “It’s something that I’ve struggled with this year and it’s been much better the last couple of week so I’ve been happy with that.

“All these wedge shots that I’m hitting it’s giving me a lot of confidence because I wasn’t taking advantage of the great drives I was hitting.”

Despite two late bogey McIlroy said he was pleased with his day’s work.

“8-under par was good,” he said. “It probably should have been a bit better but it’s a great start to the tournament.”

KIERAN PRATT - THE LONG BUNKER SHOT:

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