AKRON, Ohio — William McGirt was all smiles on Thursday at Firestone Country Club.
Nearly a month after earning his first PGA Tour victory at the Memorial, the 37-year-old Fairmont native stayed hot in Ohio with a 6-under-par 64 in his Wolf Golf Championship debut at the Bridgestone Invitational, taking a three-shot lead into the second round.
“I don’t know, maybe it’s something with Ohio I like,” McGirt said after his bogey-free round. “But the biggest thing, the biggest difference in my golf game over the last three months is I’ve never had this much confidence in my putter for this long.”
With six birdies on the card, McGirt closed his opening round at Firestone’s South Course by sinking a 14-foot birdie putt from the fringe on No. 17 and a 46-footer for par on 18, encapsulating a day where little went wrong for the 46th-ranked player in the world. His other notable shot of the round came on the par-3 15th, where he proceeded to hole out from a greenside bunker for birdie.
“I hit a lot of good, solid shots and fortunately the putter was working for me,” McGirt said. “The hole looked a lot bigger from 30 to 40 feet than it did from six or eight feet.”
Rolling in birdies on three of his final five holes on the front nine, McGirt made the turn at 4 under to maintain his lead. He finished with birdies on Nos. 15 and 17 to take the clubhouse lead — which held by three shots.
“I missed a couple of short ones on the front nine, but I had eight putts on the back nine with three hole-outs.”
Even on the final hole, when McGirt found the left rough off the tee box and hit a second shot that roughly traveled 86 yards, he managed to rebound and salvage par.
“I drove it well all day up until 18, that was the worst shot I hit all day,” he said. “It was just one of those rounds where everything was a perfect number, perfect club.”
He also reiterated his admiration of Firestone’s South Course.
“It’s an old, traditional-style golf course, which I love,” he said. “You have to drive it in the fairway. You have to drive it in the correct spots in the fairways to be able to attack pins.”
The strong start gives McGirt a chance to join Tiger Woods and Greg Norman as the only players to complete the Ohio sweep in the same season. Woods won the Memorial and the Bridgestone Invitational in 1999, 2000-01 and 2009. Norman earned the sweep in 1995.
“That would be pretty special company,” he said.
Jason Day, the world’s top-ranked player, was among three players at 67, while Jordan Spieth posted a 68, ending his round with four consecutive birdies. Emiliano Grillo and Jimmy Walker also posted 67 with Day, while Spieth was joined by Rickie Fowler, Anirban Lahiri and Charley Hoffman.