Jim Furyk feels like his game is finally coming together again.
Despite a bogey at his final hole, Furyk seized the lead at Oak Hill with a 5-under 65 in the opening round Thursday.
“You’re usually disappointed to end the day with a bogey,” the 43-year-old American said. “But a 65 at the PGA, that’s not so bad.”
Furyk rolled in a 40-foot birdie putt at the 16th — his seventh hole of the round after starting on the back side — and pushed his score to 6 under until that stumble at the ninth left him with his lone bogey. He shook his head after missing a 25-footer to save par, but couldn’t complain much about the way he played on a course softened by overnight rain.
Canadian journeyman David Hearn was one stroke back after starting with a 66. Four players, including Matt Kuchar, were at 67.
Woods got off to a good start in his bid to break an 0-for-17 slump in the majors, making the turn with a 2-under 33.
But he bogeyed the par-5 fourth, normally one of the easier holes, and wound up above par after plopping his approach into thick rough short of the green at No. 9. He took a whack at the ball — and sent it right into a bunker, up against the lip. He was able to get the club on it, landing about 12 feet below the flag. The putt, however, caught the left side of the cup and spun out.
“The round, realistically, could’ve been under par easily,” Woods said.
Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion, hasn’t won since the Tour Championship three years ago, though he’s had plenty of solid efforts. But he fell into a bit of a slump this summer, missing the cut at both the U.S. Open and the British Open, struggling with his driver and the putter.
“I did not feel confident with my putter and that was putting a lot of pressure on the rest of my game,” Furyk said.
He showed signs of turning things around the last two weeks, finishing ninth at the Canadian Open and the Bridgestone.
“I’m feeling very comfortable with what I’m doing with the driver,” Furyk said. “And this was one of my best rounds, if not the best putting round, I’ve had this year.”
None of his putts was better than the one at No. 16. Then, at the 18th, he knocked a 4-iron within a foot of the cup for a tap-in par. When Furyk wasn’t making birdies, he was saving par with a bunch of testy little putts on Oak Hill’s postage stamp greens.
Only at the ninth did Furyk score finally go up. He drove it in the right rough and had to chip out, ruining his shot at a bogey-free round.
Playing not far from home, Hearn opened and closed his round with bogeys. In between, he ripped off six birdies under skies that turned mostly sunny.
“I played some really solid golf,” said Hearn, who grew up five blocks from Wayne Gretzky’s house in Brantford, Ontario — about 140 miles west of this venerable course just outside Rochester.
The 34-year-old Hearn has never won on the PGA Tour but he came close just before the British Open, losing to Jordan Spieth in a playoff at the John Deere Classic.
“That was a great experience for me,” Hearn said. “I’m proud of the way I played. It just didn’t go my way at the finish.”
After failing to get up and down at the first hole, Hearn rolled in a short birdie putt at No. 2. Three more birdies in the 15-foot range really got him rolling before an errant drive at the 18th left him with another bogey and a bit of a sour feeling on the way to sign his scorecard.
He quickly shook it off.
“It feels good to be in contention,” Hearn said. “I’ve been playing some really good golf the last few weeks.”
He is playing in a major championship for just the fourth time in his career. Hearn has qualified for three U.S. Opens, his best showing a tie for 21st at Merion this year.
Also at 67 were England’s Paul Casey, Australia’s Marcus Fraser and Robert Garrigus. Japan’s Kohki Idoki and Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez got off to blistering starts in the afternoon, both stringing together four straight birdies on the front side.
The final major of the year is known for producing first-time major champions — it has happened 16 times over the last quarter-century.
But Woods, with 14 major victories, comes in the overwhelming favorite. Even though his last win in an event of this magnitude came at the 2008 U.S. Open, he has five victories this year on the PGA Tour and was coming off a seven-stroke runaway at the Bridgestone.
British Open champion Phil Mickelson teed off in an afternoon group with the year’s other two major winners: Adam Scott (Masters) and Justin Rose (U.S. Open.)