Woods has sights on 9th title at 'special' Firestone event

"I've never been in this position before, and so I'll have to get on my game and play well these last couple of weeks".

World No.1 Dustin Johnson, 14-time major winner Tiger Woods, reigning FedExCup winner Justin Thomas, newly crowned British Open winner Francesco Molinari and Matsuyama are among the stars assembled at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational which starts tomorrow.

"There isn't just one [favorite memory]", Woods said.

His pre-season goal to make it all the way to the season-ending TOUR Championship at East Lake next month? He's won here as many times as I've won everywhere in my career.

But the 35-year-old Italian arrives with new confidence after his triumph at Carnoustie, a major breakthrough that followed on the heels of a dominant victory at the Quicken Loans National and a tie for second at the John Deere Classic. This event has been very special to me over the years, and it's sad to see it leave Firestone. "It's one of the few tournaments that is kind of a small-town atmosphere", Woods said. But then again, I have to manage this as quite a bit of golf I'm going to ask my body to go through at tournament speed for basically the next nearly two months.

Now, area golfers will be able to attend another major championship within a reasonable drive and forge their own set of memories.

A ninth victory at Firestone would also put Woods closer to his goal of playing in the Ryder Cup - as well as serving as an assistant to U.S. captain Jim Furyk. Justin Thomas and Phil Mickelson are teeing it up together, and Dustin Johnson and Open victor Francesco Molinari will play as a pairing as well. "And I don't think anyone could, to be honest".

"When you go out on the course and you're playing with some of the best players in the world, you confront yourself with them", he said. "Tiger has proved that with here, with Bay Hill, with Torrey Pines, with. well, actually, anywhere".

Woods went out early on Thursday and began his round on the back nine. He recovered with a great approach to inside ten feet for par, but missed the putt to card his only bogey of the day and slide to 4-under for the tournament, three shots behind the clubhouse leader. There are also plenty of really good players who are in the middle tier range relative to the field like Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, and last years victor Hideki Matsuyama. This includes two three-peats from 1999-2001, and 2005-2007, and also his last win which took place in 2013.

  • Steve Townsend