Tiger Woods produced a stunning surge in the opening round of the Deutsche Bank Championship on Friday, but was overshadowed by 21-year-old South Korean Noh Seung-yul, who rocketed to a one-shot lead.
Noh tore apart the TPC Boston course with a bogey-free nine-under-par 62 that left him one shot clear of American Chris Kirk in the second of the PGA Tour’s four FedExCup playoff events.
Woods, Jeff Overton and Ryan Moore were tied in third place after the American trio shot matching 64s while world No. 1 Rory McIlroy and American Bryce Molder were a further shot back.
Woods had earlier set the Boston crowds alight with a birdie blitz reminiscent of his glory days.
The 14-times major champion played his first eight holes in two-under par before carding six consecutive birdies to lead by as many as four shots at one stage.
“I played really well today. I hit a lot of good shots, and on top of that I putted well at the same time ... it was a nice little combination,” said Woods, who made five birdies from 12 feet or longer. “I hit the ball well enough to probably shoot maybe one or two more.”
Woods, the 2006 champion at this event, played the back nine first and wasted little time making a move.
After his tee shot at the par-three 11th landed 12 feet from the hole, Woods coolly drained the birdie putt for some early confidence on the greens. Two holes later Woods sank a 19-footer that put him at two-under par.
He came within inches of an eagle from 42 feet on the 18th, but took the birdie, the first of six on the trot, including a 12-footer on his 11th hole and a 15-footer on his 12th.
The heat dissipated a little over his final four holes as Woods missed a chance for a seventh consecutive birdie before scrambling for pars on the seventh and eighth holes.
The only blemish of the day for Woods came on the last hole when he overcooked his approach shot at the par-four ninth and failed to get up and down.
Noh, a rookie on the US Tour, shot his lowest score of the year with seemingly effortless birdies and was not afraid to admit that he did so while trying to copy Woods’s swing.
The South Korean works with Woods’ Canadian swing coach Sean Foley and often tries to mimic the former world No. 1’s mechanics after looking at photos of his childhood idol.
“Sometimes [Foley] sends photos to me by text, like [of] Justin Rose’s swing, and then Hunter [Mahan] and Tiger’s swing sometimes gets sent to me, and then he says to look at the three guys’ swing, and then think about myself and then try to do it myself, so that’s a good thing,” Noh said.
“Everything was good today. Swing, putting, everything was great today. I’m just trying to make the Tour Championship points, but hopefully finish at the top five,” Noh said.
The leading 70 players on the FedExCup points list after this event advance to the BMW Championship, with the top 30 then advancing to the Tour Championship finale in Atlanta where the overall points winner pockets a US$10 million bonus.