September 19 2013
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
ATLANTA -- Sometimes a player will reach a tough stretch of holes and dial up his concentration. He’ll stand on the tee and realize a good shot is needed on a difficult hole.
That is exactly what Henrik Stenson did in the opening round of the TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola.
He was 1 under on the fourth tee when he ripped off a run of birdies on Nos. 4 through 7. Those aren’t just four birdies in a row, that’s 4 under on perhaps the toughest stretch of golf on the course.
The fourth hole was T7 for most difficult. The fifth hole was the hardest on the course while the sixth ranked T7 and the seventh was T4, giving up just six birdies on the day.
Stenson finished off his round with a birdie on the 223-yard 18th, rolling home a deuce on a hole that only gave up four birdies the entire day.
When the going got tough, Stenson got birdies.
Precision: Adam Scott had a great day with his irons, hitting 14 of 18 greens. He did not just put his approaches onto the green; Scott hit it close. The Masters champion averaged 19 feet, 8 inches from the cup with his approaches; that’s a tournament best. Scott was so good; he shot 29 on his final nine holes and it could have been better. He missed two makeable putts at the 17th and 18th holes.
Dialed in: Billy Horschel missed one green the whole day and backed up his precision from the fairway with five birdies. He had 31 putts, but that’s more a reflection of his hitting 17 greens. Horschel is from Florida and feels most comfortable on bermuda greens. While some struggle with the putting surface, he has a feel for the grain of bermuda.
Patience: Steve Stricker is not a patient person by nature. He gets mad on the golf course and his patience was tested in the opening round. Stricker birdied the opening hole, bogeyed the second and then had a run of nine straight pars before a birdie at the 12th. That is a long time between birdies and yet Stricker was able to stick to his game plan. His patience was rewarded with a run of three birdies in a row at 14, 15 and 16. Patience on a golf course is as important and difficult as any skill a golfer possesses.
Greens speed: The bermuda greens are slightly different from past years at East Lake Golf Club. The putting surfaces are just a touch slower and a little grainier. Golfers took a few holes to adjust but then had some impressive birdie runs. That number did not include Tiger Woods, who struggled with the pace of the greens while shooting 73. He had an untidy 34 putts in a round that did not include a single birdie.
Unusual: Stenson had a couple of things working against him in the opening round. He did not play a single practice round that included the back nine. Stenson did walk holes 10-18 this week but did not play them until Thursday. He also had a new driver in his bag after breaking his, in frustration in Chicago. Perhaps, practice is overrated.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here