Simpson leads way but Woods in the hunt

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Former US Open champion Webb Simpson set the clubhouse target in the first round of the £5.6 million WGC Bridgestone Invitational, but Tiger Woods was ominously poised at one of his favourite venues.

Simpson carded a six-under-par 64 at Firestone Country Club to lead by one shot from Open runner-up Henrik Stenson, with Woods, fellow American Ryan Moore and England’s Chris Wood a further stroke behind. Starting from the 10th, Simpson had gone to the turn in 31 with birdies at the 13th, 15th, 17th and 18th, and picked up two more shots at the first and second.

A bogey at the third halted his charge briefly before further birdies at the sixth and seventh, but a superb round ended with a bogey on the ninth.

Stenson had no such concerns after a flawless 65 that began with a birdie at the first and eagle at the par-5 second, picking up further shots at the 11th and 12th. The 37-year-old, who finished three shots behind Phil Mickelson at Muirfield last month, has not played in the limited-field event since 2010, when he finished last in 80th place.

Woods finished joint 78th on that occasion but has also won seven times at Firestone and carded a 66 which featured a flawless inward nine of 31, a feat matched by Bristol’s Wood.

Compatriots Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood, both third in the Open, carded 69 and 71 
respectively.