Padraig Harrington's 64 leads Barclays; Rory, Tiger break par
Web linksBarclays at Bethpage Black leaderboard
There is no comparison between the Barclays and a major championship, except there was no way to help comparing. So here was the scorecard: The rough was lower at Bethpage Black Thursday than it was at the 2009 U.S. Open, and so were the scores and the stakes. The players were anything but minor, though, which means the heat should rise by Sunday.
"It seems like more than a regular Tour event, obviously. Just look at the field," Tiger Woods said after he shot 68, 3 under par, a score that merely tied for 14th, four shots behind Padraig Harrington's lead.
"I think it's not quite the same atmosphere as a U.S. Open. We didn't have the same amount of people. But I'm sure by the weekend it'll build up and be pretty loud and boisterous again."
What stood out in the much lower-key atmosphere was the high-pitched grouping of Woods and Rory McIlroy, who both played well and added a big-time touch to the first round of the first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs. McIlroy started strongly, then cooled to finish at 2 under, one behind former Masters champion Zach Johnson, also in their group.
Because Woods and McIlroy were in the same threesome, there was a little extra something in the air, along with all of those red numbers on the leader board. It started with their good-natured back-and-forth Wednesday, with the 23-year-old McIlroy publicly joking in Woods' presence that he looked forward to kicking the backside of the 14-time major champion.
Woods didn't escalate that banter in front of the media, but McIlroy said, "We had lunch straight after [that] yesterday, and he just said, 'There's no way in hell you're kicking my [butt].' "
It is almost unheard of that an entire field beats up on the Black Course, but conditions were dry and perfect, and the setup was nowhere near a U.S. Open's.
"There are different pins,'' Woods said. "They're probably a step-and-a-half easier today than they normally are for an Open. You had a little more room. You can take a few more chances and go after them."
McIlroy made four birdies on the group's first nine (holes 10-18) and Woods made three birdies on the second nine on a day when par was no match for the top golfers in the season-long FedEx Cup points race. Phil Mickelson was also among the 12 who shot 68.
Harrington said it was a function of the rough being cut shorter, as it is in PGA Tour events. "And the pressure is not the same," the leader said after his 64 tied the Black Course record held by former Long Island club pro Craig Thomas (2007 New York State Open) and Mike Weir and Lucas Glover (2009 U.S. Open).
No matter what the scores said, the pairing of Woods and McIlroy added an intriguing, match-play feel. Each was somewhat pleased without being totally satisfied.
Woods said, "I didn't hit the ball as well as I would like. I'm going to work on a couple of things that I can shore up for tomorrow. But I'm very pleased with the way I putted."
McIlroy said, "I don't know if I expected [scoring] to be as low as it was. I felt like I had a lot of chances out there. I don't think I need to change the strategy at all, of hitting a lot of drivers and trying to be aggressive."
The two, with their combined 16 Grand Slam titles, will play together again Friday, at 1:06 p.m. No matter where or when, theirs is a major group.