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Bridgestone International: Mixed fortunes for Tiger Woods and old pal Darren Clarke

By Bernie McGuire

Tiger Woods showed flashes of brilliance on his return to competitive action at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational yesterday.

The fallen superstar carded a two-under par total of 68 in his first full round in nearly four months, carding one bogey and three birdies — all on the back nine — in a display that hinted his game is in good shape and his knee is not causing him any real problems.

His playing partner and good pal, Darren Clarke, had a tougher time of things, however — carding a seven-over round of 77 despite eagling the eighth after a pinpoint approach shot.

Ulster’s Open winner is currently last in the competition, although the 42-year-old appeared to be enjoying himself througout the round.

Meanwhile, two completely different shots within two holes helped deliver Rory McIlroy a reassuring two-under-par tally on the opening day.

McIlroy was struggling at two-over par after four holes but then an eagle at his 11th hole (the par-five second) and an iron to just two feet at the next saw the reigning US Open champion sign for an eventual 68.

It left McIlroy, with his equal best score in nine rounds of the event, trailing five strokes behind Australia's Jason Day with the runner-up in both this year's Masters and US Open snaring seven birdies in a round of 63.

Day had forged three strokes clear of a group of players, including Dane Thomas Bjorn and 2009 British Open champion Stewart Cink who were at four-under par as the afternoon half of the draw took to the course.

McIlroy had fallen to two-over par with bogeys at his third and fourth holes but it was a birdie from 13 feet left of the pin at his eighth, the 17th, that delivered him the momentum he was seeking.

At the par-five second he was playing as his 11th, McIlroy drilled a 5-wood from 234-yards out to just four feet for eagle, ahead of landing his short iron shot to just two feet at the par-three third.

“It wasn't the best of starts to be two-over early on but I managed to get it back into red numbers, which was nice,” McIlroy said.

“But I managed to stay patient even though I have a few things to work on.

“I was looking at the leaderboard and saw there were a lot of guys going under par, so I just wanted to get myself back in red figures.

“The putt on my eighth was huge as that helped in making the eagle on my 11th, and then the birdie on the next was big.”

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