Fleetwood carded an opening four-under-par 67 in The Northern Trust at Ridgewood Country Club to lie one shot off the early clubhouse lead, with Woods having battled to a level-par 71.
Starting from the ninth due to the layout of the composite course, Fleetwood birdied the 13th, 14th, 16th and 17th to cover the back nine in 32 and picked up another shot on the fourth before dropping his only shot of the day following an errant drive on the seventh.
“I’ve not swung it great in practice and was a little scrappy early on but holed some great putts in my first 10 holes and then it kind of dried up a bit on the front nine, our back nine,” Fleetwood told PGA Tour Live.
“Then I started playing better so overall, on a course where the scoring seems OK today but if you’re hitting it out of position it’s not that easy, I’m happy with the start.
“It’s cool being in the FedEx. I had goals at the start of the year when I knew this was my first year with full status on the PGA Tour and it’s really nice to be a part of it. Coming towards the end of the season it’s a good time to be in form if you can get there.”
The overall winner of the FedEx Cup title wins a bonus of $10 million – a feat Woods is the only player to achieve more than once, in 2007 and 2009. The 42-year-old, who is appearing in the play-offs for the first time in five years, carded two birdies and two bogeys in his first start since finishing runner-up to Brooks Koepka in the US PGA Championship.
Koepka, world No 1 Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey were among the players to match Fleetwood’s 67 to lie a shot behind leaders Kevin Tway and Jamie Lovemark.
“It felt good to come back and play as well as I did,” three-time major winner Koepka said. “My iron play is really solid and I’m making the putts you need to make so I just need to keep grinding away.
“I like the way the course sets up, it suits my eye. I like being able to hit driver on most holes and get it down there. If you put it in position you can really have some wedges in here and take advantage of your length.
“I did that pretty well today, a few misses in the rough but these fairways aren’t exactly wide so I don’t expect to hit them all.”
Meanwhile, a winner-take-all match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson is on after WarnerMedia said it had secured the rights for a pay-per-view event it is promoting as “The Match”.
The format will be 18 holes between Woods and Mickelson on 24 or 25 November at Shadow Creek in Las Vegas. The winner will receive $9 million.
Woods announced that the match was on in a tweet , setting off Twitter banter with Mickelson , who only signed up for a Twitter account Wednesday. Woods and Mickelson will make side bets during the match on such things as longest drive or closest to the pin.