(Reuters) – A late string of birdies helped Justin Rose to the lead and he held off fast closing Russell Knox and Abraham Ancer for a one-stroke advantage after the opening round of the Dell Technologies Championship on Friday.
Englishman Rose, a certain pick for the European Ryder Cup team, birdied three of his final four holes for a six-under-par 65 in breezy conditions at TPC Boston as the FedEx Cup playoffs moved to the second round.
That temporarily gave him a two-stroke lead before Scot Knox and Mexican Ancer closed with matching 66s.
Americans Chris Kirk, Beau Hossler, Keegan Bradley and Gary Woodland were a stroke back while Tiger Woods endured an up-and-down round of 72 to sit seven shots off the lead.
The Englishman missed the cut at last week’s Northern Trust but his steady play soon had him on top on Friday. He backed up a pair of birdies on the front nine with four more in his final nine for a bogey free round.
“I guess just keeping the card clean made the birdies really count for something,” Rose said.
“I looked at the pins last night, and I thought there was an opportunity to make some birdies.”
But he said Friday’s wind made things a bit more difficult.
“I felt clearly it was trickier than I thought last night. It was windier today, a cool breeze, just enough to swirl around and make it tricky.”
Knox also missed last week’s cut but surged from even par after his second bogey of the day at the 12th to collect three birdies and an eagle at the par-four 15th in six holes coming home.
Ancer, playing the back nine first, sank four birdies in his last six holes to stay bogey free.
Woods had trouble from the start.
The 14-times major champion picked up a bogey at his first hole, the 10th, and racked up two more for a three-bogey start before finally getting a birdie on the board at his eighth hole.
He wound up with four bogeys and three birdies but was not blaming his putting for the shots he dropped.
“I putted beautifully today, I really did,” Woods, who brought out a new putter, told Golf Channel.
But other parts of his game let him down.
“When I did miss it, I missed it in bad spots and didn’t have very good angles,” Woods said.
“Couldn’t quite get the momentum going. The front side, my back nine, thought if I felt momentum going, I could have finished under par today.”
World number one Dustin Johnson was in a group who shot 68s while FedEx Cup points leader Bryson DeChambeau shot a one-under 70, one better than Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy.
Billy Horschel, the 2014 FedEx Cup champion, withdrew with sinus problems.
(Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina, editing by Pritha Sarkar/Nick Mulvenney)