Tiger Woods fires best opening round for nearly 20 years to share lead

Tiger Woods was in blistering form as he fired an opening 62 to share the lead with Rory McIlroy in the first round of the BMW Championship near Philadelphia.

The former world No. 1 reached eight under with seven birdies and an eagle for his lowest opening-round score since a 61 at the Bryon Nelson Classic in 1999.

It was some way for Woods to justify – if he still needed to – captain Jim Furyk’s decision earlier this week to include him as a wildcard for the USA’s Ryder Cup team.

His performances this season, which have included a brief lead in the final round of the Open Championship in July, have catapulted Woods up to 26th in the world rankings, a leap of more than 600 places since the end of last year as he recovered from spine fusion surgery.

Woods said much of Thursday’s success was down to him dusting off the 19-year-old putter he used for 13 of his 14 major wins.

“I’ve been monkeying around with it at home in the back yard through the summer,” the 42-year-old told reporters. “It just never felt right, but it feels good now. I’ve hit hundreds of millions of putts with that thing.

“I’ve had it since 1999. My body just remembers it. It just feels very familiar to me.”

Northern Ireland’s McIlroy was on track to better his Ryder Cup rival’s round – at one point even looking likely to shoot sub-60 with a career-best six consecutive birdies – but back-to-back bogeys on the back nine scuppered his chance.

It was certainly a day for low scoring as American Xander Schauffele, in contention to be Furyk’s fourth and final wildcard pick Monday, shot a seven-under-par 63 to sit in third.

Ryder Cup rivals Justin Thomas of America and Sweden’s Alex Noren were tied on six under alongside Billy Horschel and Peter Uihlein.

In total, 48 of the 69 players in the field were under par after the opening round.

“We all benefit from Tiger Woods playing well,” McIlroy said after the round. “I’m happy he’s up there. And it will be a great tournament if he stays up there.”

The BMW Championship is the third of four season-ending tournaments which make up the FedEx Cup, with Bryson DeChambeau winning the first two.

The top 30 in the standings after the Sunday’s final round at Aronimink Golf Club will contest the Tour Championship at East Lake, Atlanta starting September 20.

The overall winner of the FedEx Cup will receive a $10 million bonus, while the Tour Championship carries a first prize of $1.62 million.