Watson leads Bridgestone by two

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, Last Updated: 10:17 AM ET

AKRON, Ohio -- Bubba Watson fired a six-under 64 Thursday to grab a two-stroke lead after the opening round of the World Golf Championships - Bridgestone Invitational.

Watson's 64 was pretty impressive since this is the first time he is playing in this event.

"I've never been here, so I learned the golf course in a couple days," Watson said.

World No. 2 Phil Mickelson rallied for a four-under 66, which left him tied for second place. He was joined there by U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, Kenny Perry and Adam Scott.

Mickelson, who was two-over par after six holes, birdied six of his final 12 holes to finish at minus-four. He could overtake Tiger Woods for the top spot in the world rankings with a victory this week.

Speaking of Woods, he managed just two birdies in a round of four-over 74. That was by two strokes his worst ever round on the South Course at Firestone Country Club.

Prior to this 74, Woods' worst round at Firestone was a 72, which he shot in the second round in 2003. That 72 followed an opening-round 65 and Woods went on to share fourth place that year.

Woods, the defending champion, has won this tournament seven times in 10 starts, but Thursday was not his day.

The world No. 1 bogeyed his first two holes and tripped to another bogey on the par-three fifth, where he left his second shot in a bunker. Woods bounced back with a kick-in birdie on the sixth.

However, that was his lone birdie on the day. Woods knocked his second over the green at the ninth and that led to his fourth bogey. Around the turn, he drove behind a tree on the 11th and made bogey there.

Woods found the rough off the tee at 14 and came up short, left with his approach. He chipped on, but two-putted for bogey to slide to plus-five.

After a pair of pars, Woods birdied the par-four 17th and gave a sarcastic bow to the crowd. He had another birdie chance at the last, but his 21-footer stayed above ground.

Watson rolled in a 20-footer for birdie on the first to get his round going. He converted a 12-foot birdie effort on the fifth, then parred his next five holes.

The 31-year-old caught fire from there. After a birdie on the 11th, Watson followed with a 15-footer on the 12th. He got to six-under with birdies on the 13th and 14th.

Watson, who collected his first win earlier this year at the Travelers Championship, missed the green at the par-three 15th and that led to his only bogey. After a pair of pars, Watson rolled in a long birdie putt from off the green at the last to stretch his lead to two.

Afterwards, Watson said his main goal this week and next is to play well enough to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

"My main goal this year was to make the Ryder Cup, and I've got two good weeks to go to have a shot at it," stated Watson. "I'm [17th] in the points. If it's a win this week or whatever it takes to get into the Ryder Cup, that's my main goal. I wasn't looking at what I need to shoot today or tomorrow. I'm looking at the bigger picture in two weeks when they announce the team."

Mickelson played the back nine first and after four straight pars, he bogeyed 14 and 15. He came right back with a birdie on the 16th.

Around the turn, he carded back-to-back birdies from the second and again from the sixth. Mickelson birdied the ninth, his last, to end at minus-four.

"It was a good day in that I got off to a poor start and was a couple over par and then was able to turn it around and shoot 30 on my back nine," Mickelson said. "I was only one-under par, and I was just trying to keep it just a couple under, seeing if I could get one or two more and when that lob shot went in the hole, it gave me a nice boost."

Perry and Scott both posted bogey-free rounds with four birdies. Perry started on the back nine, where he birdied the 11th and 18th. On the front nine, Perry birdied Nos. 6 and 8 to end at minus-four.

Scott carded his four birdies in the first 10 holes, then parred his final eight holes.

Last week's runner-up Jeff Overton posted a three-under 67 and shares sixth place with Chad Campbell, Bo Van Pelt, Sean O'Hair and Retief Goosen.

NOTES: Lee Westwood, who was paired with Woods for the first two rounds, opened with a one-over 71 and is tied for 37th...Westwood could pass Woods atop the world rankings with a win this week...2008 champion Vijay Singh also posted a 71...Robert Allenby withdrew before the event after having knee surgery earlier in the week. Allenby tore ligaments in his right knee over the weekend after slipping on his boat while fishing.


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