PARAMUS, N.J. — Yes, that was really Tiger Woods' name atop the leaderboard.
In his first tournament since his divorce, Woods finally looked like the No. 1 player in the world Thursday, when he opened the Barclays with 6-under 65. His lowest score of the year left him tied for first with Vaughn Taylor. It was Woods' first time leading after any round on the PGA Tour since the second of the Tour Championship on Sept. 25.
"It's exciting to hit the ball flush again," Woods said. "It's something I've been missing all year."
Woods hit all but one fairway and putted for birdie on all but two holes. And while he hit his driver only twice, they were two of his best shots of the day. One came on the 291-yard No. 5, where his shot settled 15 feet away from the hole.
Was it just a coincidence that his game showed up so soon after his marriage was dissolved?
"I can't really say that's the case," he said. "As far as golf, it was nice to put it together."
Woods and Taylor played in the morning, when the greens were smooth and the conditions only breezy. They had a one-shot lead over Adam Scott, Brian Gay and Ryan Palmer. Scott played in the afternoon, where a gust of wind played tricks on him at the final hole and led to bogey.
The last time Woods was atop the leaderboard after a round of any tournament was when he won the Australian Masters on Nov. 15. That came less than two weeks before a car crash on Thanksgiving night led to revelations of adultery, five months away from the game and a broken marriage, which officially ended Monday.
His golf hasn't been good either.
In nine events this year, his best finish is tied for fourth (at the Masters and U.S. Open). Since the Open, he has finished tied for 46th, tied for 23rd, tied for 78th and tied for 28th (at the PGA Championship).
That's part of the reason Woods began the FedEx Cup playoffs 112th among 125 players. He was so low, he was first to tee off for the first time in his PGA career. It worked to his advantage.
"With fresh greens, everybody in our group was making putts on the front nine," Woods said.
The 65 was his lowest score in 46 rounds dating to a third-round 62 at the BMW Championship on Sept. 11. Taylor grinned when asked if he was surprised to see Woods' name on top of the leaderboard.
"Somewhat, you know?" he said. "It's good to see him back up top."
Said Scott: "For him to piece things together can't be too hard. He's very good."
Only the top 100 in the FedEx Cup standings advance to the second round of the playoffs, next week in the Deutsche Bank Championship. Woods needs to make the cut, then finish in the middle of the pack but had a better solution: "I figure if I win, I should be okay."
Hole-in-one helps Wie take three-shot lead
WINNIPEG — Michelle Wie recorded a hole-in-one on the 190-yard, par-3 11th hole on her way to 7-under 65 and a three-shot lead after the first round of the Canadian Women's Open.
"It was the first time I had actually seen it go in," said Wie, 20, whose only other hole-in-one came at last year's LPGA Championship. "It was surreal."
Wie, whose only other first-round lead came at the 2005 U.S. Open, birdied three of her final six holes, including holing out from a greenside bunker at No. 17.
Sarah Kemp was second at 68 and defending champion Suzann Pettersen third at 69. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome shot 72 and was tied for 24th.
Ryder Cup: Francesco Molinari clinched a berth on Europe's team when Ross McGowan withdrew from the European Tour's Johnnie Walker Championship in Gleneagles, Scotland, due to a pinched nerve. Molinari, seventh in points, will be one of nine automatic qualifiers and the first Italian to play in the event since Costantino Rocca in 1995.
U.S. Amateur: Defending champion Byeong-Hun An beat Alex Shi Yup Kim 4 and 3 and Scott Strohmeyer 3 and 2 to reach today's quarterfinals in University Place, Wash. In his three matches, none have reached the 17th hole. In his first match, reigning NCAA champion Scott Langley of Illinois needed 19 holes for a second straight day to advance, beating Patrick Reed. Then he beat Kyle McCarthy 6 and 4.