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Jim Furyk leads with 63, Tiger Woods stumbles to par

Tiger Woods watches his ball after teeing off

Tiger Woods watches his ball after teeing off on the third hole during the first round of the Bridgestone Invitational golf tournament at Firestone Country Club. (Aug. 2, 2012) Credit: AP

AKRON, Ohio -- Firestone Country Club is one of the grand old stalwarts of professional golf, which is just fine with Jim Furyk. With a 42 on the age line of his bio, he is old enough to appreciate what he calls the course's "classic older architecture." With a 63 on his scorecard Thursday, he proved he is young enough to play well anywhere.

His 7-under-par opening round in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational occurred at just the right time. It hasn't been an awful season. It just has not been awfully satisfying. He lost the U.S. Open lead on the final holes, couldn't quite get anything going at the British Open (tied for 34th) and missed the cut at the Canadian Open.

What's more, he loves playing for the United States in the Ryder Cup, which he has done seven times. He might not have too many more shots at it, and he needs two really good weeks -- this tournament and the PGA Championship next week -- to make the squad.

"I'd be lying if I said it isn't on my mind," he said. "But I'm also wise enough to know the only way to take care of business is to really focus on golf, and the next shot and the next round -- kind of forget about it and just try to play as well as I can and let those things work themselves out."

That was pretty much his formula Thursday after a few days spent at home "to kind of sit on the back porch and relax a little bit . . . I think more than anything, I needed a little time to clear my head."

He gave himself the advice that any pro would give a student: Don't concentrate on the mechanics of the swing; instead, just play freely and get the ball in the hole. "It worked today," he said. "It's been a while since I made seven birdies and an eagle in a round, so it was a lot of fun."

Furyk is two up on England's Lee Slattery on a day when most golfers scored well. That group did not include Tiger Woods, a seven-time winner here, who was 3 under through 11 holes but made bogeys on three of his final six to finish at par, tied for 31st. "Well, I hit it good today,'' he said. "Unfortunately, once I got to the greens, I think I averaged about four putts per hole."

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