Team America sets early tone

Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy
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A scene golf fans hope to see next week as Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy congratulate each other after their opening rounds at The Tour Championship.

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012 | 7:35 p.m.
It’s way too early to make anything of it – just as it’s far too early be making any FedExCup projections, even though the networks are doing it anyway – but Captain Love has to be pretty darned pleased with how his team looks one week before the Ryder Cup opening ceremonies. 

Sure, Europe’s Justin Rose shot 4 under on Thursday to share the lead at the Tour Championship, and Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy slipped into the top 12 at 1 under, but Team America put on a show. 

Tiger Woods also shot 4 under to lead while Steve Stricker and Matt Kuchar finished the day a shot back at 3 under. Not only did Stricker and Kuchar play well, perhaps more importantly to Captain Love, they putted great. Kuchar said afterward, “It was a fantastic putting performance. I didn’t hit it my best, but thankfully my short game was great, and putting, in particular, was really strong.” 

Brandt Snedeker also putted like a fiend to shoot 2 under, while Phil Mickelson hit some of the best iron shots of his life en route to shooting 1 under. “I’m hitting my irons really, really well,” Phil told me behind the East Lake clubhouse after Thursday’s round. “I only hit one bad putt all day, but I misread a lot of them. Hopefully I can get that corrected, because I’m hitting them on the line I want.”  

Zach Johnson finished the day birdie-birdie to shoot 2 under, while Bubba Watson shot 33 on the back nine to get in at minus-1 along with Jim Furyk and Dustin Johnson. 

The only American Ryder Cupper to shoot over par on Thursday was Webb Simpson. But Simpson had five birdies in his 1-over round.  

Again, it’s a long week and an even longer time until the first shot of the matches. But if being hot matters going in, the Americans have to like what they see.