Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Stenson leads Scott by one at PGA Tour Championship

ATLANTA — Henrik Stenson changed his attitude and chose a different target at the Tour Championship.

Instead of smashing a driver and a locker, he demolished the front nine at East Lake on Thursday with a five birdies over a six-hole stretch that carried him to 6-under 64 and a one-shot lead over Masters champion Adam Scott after the first round.

It was a big turnaround for Stenson from Monday at the BMW Championship, not only on his scorecard but between the ears. "I just needed to realize the world is a good place again," he said.

Stenson was playing his seventh tournament in 10 weeks when the BMW Championship was extended a day because of rain. He slammed his driver so hard into the ground on Monday's final hole of his 3-over 74 that the head snapped off, then he took out his frustrations on his wooden locker. He finished the tournament at 1 under, 15 shots behind winner Zach Johnson.

Stenson is known for public displays of frustrations, but this was peculiar because he has had an impressive summer, including four straight tournaments with top-three finishes (two of them majors) and had won the Deutsche Bank Championship in his previous tournament. He said he apologized to the club and told the locker room attendants to keep in contact, presumably so he can pay for repairs.

"I've always been a bit of a hothead, and I just haven't been able to get any rest," Stenson said. "I was looking forward to that Monday back home and lying on the couch, the kids in school and me just doing nothing, and I ended up playing golf again on that Monday. I was just tired, and I pushed myself over the edge there.

"That's not the best place to be and not the best frame of mind to play good golf. I'm really delighted with the change I made to (Thursday)."

While Stenson looked like he couldn't miss, Tiger Woods didn't make a thing. Woods was the only player in the 30-man field to go without a birdie and had 3-over 73, which left him next to last. PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner was 4 over.

It was only the seventh time in his PGA Tour career that Woods went a round without a birdie and his first since the first round of the 2010 U.S. Open. The 73 matched his highest opening round of the year on tour. He walked past reporters without comment.

Steve Stricker and former Gator standout Billy Horschel were at 4 under, and Roberto Castro was another shot back. Phil Mickelson was 1 over.

Stenson and Scott have to win the Tour Championship to capture the FedEx Cup and the $10 million prize in the tour's playoffs. Scott would be a strong candidate for tour player of the year if he were to win. That would give him three wins, compared with five for Woods, though Scott would have a major, to none for Woods, and the FedEx Cup.

"I'm going to be working hard to try and make my case for it," Scott said.