While eight-times winner Tiger Woods launched his title defense
with a two-under-par 68 at a rain-softened Firestone Country Club,
Leishman surged to the top of the leaderboard with a sizzling 64.
Leishman, whose only PGA Tour win came at the 2012 Travelers
Championship, mixed eight birdies with two bogeys on the heavily
tree-lined layout to finish a stroke in front of American Ryan
Moore, South African Charl Schwartzel and England's Justin Rose.
"I feel like I've been playing pretty well for the last few months
at least, and the results have been fairly good," Leishman, who tied
for fifth at the British Open 11 days ago, told reporters. "I drove
the ball well. It makes this course a lot easier when you're on the
fairway. It's pretty tough when you're playing from the rough," said
the 30-year-old, who has recorded top-11 finishes in three of his
last four PGA Tour starts.
Italian Francesco Molinari, Americans Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler
and Canadian Graham DeLaet opened with 67s in the third World Golf
Championships (WGC) event of the year.
Most eyes, however, were focused on former world number one Woods,
who has compiled an astonishing record of success at Firestone and
romped to victory last year by seven shots.
Though still tournament rusty after spending much of this season
recovering from back surgery, he was satisfied with the progress
shown in his game after carding six birdies, two bogeys and a double
at the par-four ninth.
"I hit a lot of good shots today, I hit a few not so solid but I
kind of got it around a little bit," Woods told Golf Channel after
covering the back nine in two-under 33.
"Every time I dropped a shot, I got it right back the very next hole
so bouncing back like that feels nice. It's just progress. I just
need to get (repetitions) in.
"Coming (back) off surgery, it takes time. (My form) has been
building and today was a lot better."
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Woods, who missed the cut at last month's Quicken Loans National and
finished 69th at the British Open in his only two events since his
surgery in late March, said his strategy had been very simple in the
"You've just got to keep making birdies out here, keep the ball in
play," he smiled. "It's soft right now and you can see a lot of guys
"With the wind cropping up this afternoon, not a lot of guys went low
but it certainly was gettable," said Woods, who double-bogeyed the ninth
after missing the fairway to the right off the tee and hitting tree
branches with his second shot.
Australian world number one Adam Scott, second-ranked Northern Irishman
Rory McIlroy, who clinched his third major title at the British Open
earlier this month, and Masters winner Bubba Watson opened with matching
Among those who did not fare well in the first round at Firestone were
U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer of Germany, who struggled to a 77, and
former British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, who carded
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Steve
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