Akron, Ohio — The day brought out some of the vintage Tiger Woods, like the low, hard cut that nearly reached the end of the short grass at No. 16. There also were a few putts that stayed out, plus a continued aversion to the fairway.
But if there was one word to sum up Woods’ first competitive round in 12 weeks, it might be “strong.”
Maybe too strong.
“I hit the ball really flush,” Woods said after Thursday’s 2-under-par 68 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. “The hardest part I had today was controlling my distances because I hadn’t hit the ball this flush in a long time.”
Woods will have some ground to make up, trailing Adam Scott — and former caddie Steve Williams — by six shots. Scott’s four birdies in his last six holes left him with a 62 that fell just short of Woods’ course record set 11 years ago.
But if nothing else, Woods’ highly anticipated return managed to put two things in the rear-view mirror.
He hung around longer than the last time he stepped inside the ropes at a PGA Tour event. And he already has a better round than at any time during last year’s visit to Firestone Country Club, when he tied for next-to-last.
“It feels great,” said Woods, who cut short his last start after just nine holes at The Players Championship. “My practice sessions were good, so there’s no reason why I should be worried out there. I went out there and just let it go.”
A-Rod’s rep denies gambling reports
Chicago— Alex Rodriguez kept matters strictly on his physical rehab Thursday in Florida, while letting his publicist respond to allegations of the slugger’s past participation in illegal poker games.
In a statement, A-Rod’s publicist Richard Rubenstein said there were “numerous factual inaccuracies” in Star Magazine’s report about the Yankee third baseman’s involvement in high stakes poker.
Rubenstein added that A-Rod “looks forward to cooperating with Major League Baseball’s investigation.”
A-Rod acknowledged that he’d have no personal comment about the poker allegations Thursday at Tampa, following his first baseball workout since the July 11 arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
The commissioner’s office said it takes the matter “very seriously,” and officials plan to interview A-Rod. However, MLB has yet to contact the Yankees about any findings and have not warned the club of a possible suspension, according to industry sources. A suspension would be an unlikely result.
Molina suspended five games
Miami — St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina has been suspended five games by Major League Baseball for his run-in with umpire Rob Drake in Milwaukee.
Molina decided not to appeal the suspension after talking to his agent and to Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak. He has a bruised right hand that he suffered while trying to block a pitch in Wednesday’s game, and it had been determined earlier Thursday that he would not be in Thursday night’s lineup.
LSU assistant has Parkinson’s
Baton Rouge, La. — LSU assistant coach Steve Kragthorpe has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and is relinquishing his duties as offensive coordinator, but is remaining on the Tigers’ staff.
Kragthorpe, who was hired during the offseason, will remain as the quarterbacks’ coach, while offensive line coach Greg Studrawa has been elevated to offensive coordinator.
DT Patterson has brain condition
Bethlehem, Pa. — The Eagles are “pretty sure” that Mike Patterson’s seizure during training camp Wednesday was caused by a brain condition called arteriovenous malformation (AVM), although Patterson’s agent cautioned that any diagnosis was premature.
AVM is the tangling of blood vessels right outside the brain. Eagles head trainer Rick Burkholder said that after a series of tests at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown it was determined that Patterson likely had a congenital form of AVM.
“I’m pretty sure that’s what caused the seizure,” Burkholder said Thursday. “We’re pretty sure it was not football-related. Now, the next course of evaluation and treatment for Mike is that they’ll continue to do testing, possibly some in Lehigh Valley and some in Philadelphia.”
Treatment for AVM often depends upon the severity of the condition. It could require surgery, radiation therapy, or nothing at all.
WR Cotchery cut by Jets on request
Florham Park, N.J. — A few hours after Jerricho Cotchery reminisced about his Jets career, he was gone.
New York released the popular wide receiver Thursday, apparently clearing the way for veteran Derrick Mason to sign with the team. But in a late twist to the story, Rex Ryan said that was the way the popular wide receiver wanted it.
“It was tough,” Ryan said a few hours after the move. “J-Co wanted to ... he asked for a trade or to be released and that’s what happened.”
Earlier in the day, Cotchery said, “I love being a Jet,” and it appeared it was not his idea to leave. Cotchery, the subject of recent trade rumors, said he thought he would be cut if Mason — brought in by the Jets for a visit — passed his physical.
Edwards re-signs with Roush
Carl Edwards spurned an offer from Joe Gibbs Racing and signed a multi-year contract extension with current team Roush Fenway Racing.
The deal was announced Thursday and puts Edwards, the current Sprint Cup Series points leader, in position to compete for his first Cup championship.
“I sincerely appreciate the amazing opportunity that Jack Roush has given me in this sport and am honored to race for him,” Edwards said in a statement.