Woods eagled the par-5 18th to get in the clubhouse with five-under 65. He was tied for the lead with Rickie Fowler when he finished his round.
After struggling in opening rounds for the majority of the year, Tiger Woods has now put himself in contention after Thursday in two straight tournaments.
Two weeks after he seized the lead at the BMW Championship with a season-best 62, Woods eagled the par-5 18th to shoot five-under 65 on Thursday in his first Tour Championship start since 2013. He was tied for the lead with Rickie Fowler when he finished his round.
"This was by far better than the 62 at Aronimink," Woods said after the round.
Woods, a two-time winner of the Tour Championship and the only two-time winner of the FedEx Cup, was in control of his golf ball all day. He found 10 of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens, and the solid ball striking helped him overcome a three-putt bogey at the 1st hole.
With the Scotty Cameron putter back in the bag for the second-straight tournament, Woods generally looked solid on the speedy Bermuda greens at East Lake but did miss three putts inside 12 feet, including a missed six-footer for par on 1.
"They are some of the fastest Bermuda greens I've ever putted on," Woods said.
The eagle on 18th came after a smoked 5-wood from the first cut of rough, a lazer that never looked headed anywhere but the fat part of the green. His 27-footer for eagle broke right at the end before falling right in the center of the hole, and Woods reacted with a fist pump.
"I hammered that drive up the left side, and it was nice to see that not in the rough," he said.
Woods entered this week ranked 20th in the FedEx Cup and will need serious help if he is to win his third season-long points race, but he's in great position to contend for what would be his 80th PGA Tour victory.
Below is a hole-by-hole recap of Woods' round.
Hole 18, par 5 - Eagle, -5
You can't play a par 5 any better.
Woods took an aggressive line with his driver and pulled it a touch, but it got a lucky right bounce to escape the primary cut and give him a chance to get a fairway wood on it. He went with 5-wood from 250 and it was a lazer, finding the center of the green and leaving a 27-footer for eagle. The putt was tracking the hole way and took a late left turn to drop right in the center.
Fist pump time.
Hole 17, par 4 - Par, -3
Two loose swings from Tiger on this hole. The first was a blocked 3-wood that was fortunate to stay in the right part of the fairway. The approach was a smothered-pull that went long and left, finding a shaved area past the green. He did well in knocking his third to three-and-a-half feet and hearted the par putt.
Woods now heads to the par-5 18th with a good chance for birdie, which would see him post four-under 66. Rickie Fowler is in the clubhouse at five-under 65.
Hole 16, par 4 - Par, -3
Woods found the left side of the fairway with another driver but hit an indifferent approach to about 30 feet. His birdie effort missed badly to the right, leaving about a three footer for par. He converted that without incident.
Hole 15, par 3 - Par, -3
Another par 3 over water, but the difference with this one is it only required a wedge. Tiger played safely right of a left pin and controlled the distance well, leaving about a 25 footer for birdie. The putt was tracking the hole way before it ran out of speed just before the hole. If that had caught any part of the hole, it would have dropped. But it didn't, and he'll settle for a par 3.
Hole 14, par 4 - Birdie, -3
A birdie on the longest par 4 on the course is stealing at least a half-shot against the field.
Woods found the fairway with a driver and blistered a 6-iron from about 200 yards to inside seven feet. He was able to judge the speed on the right-to-left putt and walked it in. He's now three under and one back of the lead with four holes remaining.
Hole 13, par 4 - Par, -2
Woods pulled his drive into the left rough, nestling into a gnarly lie and drawing some tree issues. He tried to hit a low hook from 130 yards but couldn't get it to turn over, leaving a long bunker shot for his third. His bunker effort rolled out to about eight feet past the hole and he was able to knock in the comebacker for par.
Hole 12, par 4 - Birdie, -2
Woods went with a 3-wood off the tee and hit a peeler that caught the left side of the fairway. He then produced his best iron shot of the day, a high wedge that plopped down to just three feet away from a tucked pin. Dead-center fromt here and it's Woods' third birdie of the day against the lone three-putt bogey at the 1st. He's two back of the lead and has some pep in his step.
Hole 11, par 3 - Par, -1
Fifth straight par in a row after another missed opportunity. Woods flagged his approach from 200 yards to just 11 feet but found himself above the hole, never an easy proposition on the speedy bermuda putting surfaces at East Lake. He was defensive with his 11-footer for birdie and it never really had a chance. Another stress-free par, but Woods could easily be two or three under with some better putting today.
Hole 10, par 4 - Par, -1
Woods missed the fairway to the left for the first time. He was only about two feet in the primary cut but had to hack at his second, which he did well to get just short of the green. Woods went with putter from there and lagged one to tap-in range.
Hole 9, par 3 - Par, -1
Wood missed his first green of the day at the par-3 9th after he tried to play a cut that stayed left and found a greenside bunker. The ball came out of its pitch mark, leaving a straightforward bunker shot that he knocked to about two feet. Onward.
Hole 8, par 4 - Par, -1
The 8th is a tricky tee shot, with water all along the left side and bunkers guarding the right. That Tiger hit a cut with trouble left is telling as to just how confident he feels with the driver. It was another beauty, finding the middle of the fairway, and his approach was a little right of the hole but caught a slight ridge and finished about 10 feet from the cup. He barely touched the birdie effort, which did not break left enough and slid just by. Tap-in par.
Hole 7, par 4 - Par, -1
First missed fairway of the day comes at 7, where Tiger blocked a driver right of the fairway. The ball finished in pine straw just behind a tree, but Woods was a bit fortunate to have a swing and a relatively clear path to the green. He had to engineer a low-cut and did it to perfection, flying the ball onto the front portion of the green and having it finish about 30 feet. Two putts from there and that's a solid, scrambling 4. The type of par that keeps momentum going.
Hole 6, par 5 - Birdie, -1
The putter is starting to heat up.
Woods hit his fifth straight fairway with another perfect driver, leaving a 5-wood into the uphill par-5. He stuck the toe in the ground a bit which resulted in a pull, and he was a bit unlucky to miss the greenside bunker and find some dense bermuda just left of the green. He chopped out to about 15 feet and found the bottom with his second consecutive long birdie effort. Now back to red numbers and just two back of the early lead.
Hole 5, par 4 - Birdie, E
Another cut driver into the middle of the fairway, but Woods was cautious with his sand wedge approach to a back pin. It came up about 25 feet short of the pin but, importantly, he was below the hole. The birdie effort up the hill was dead-center and Woods is back to even par with a par 5 next. Chance to get some momentum.
Hole 4, par 4 - Par, +1
Another fairway found with that trusty little cut he's been using to perfection with the driver. Next up was a towering 7-iron approach that finished 20 feet right of the hole, leaving another good uphill look at birdie. The putt was right the entire way, meaning he had to settle for another par.
Early on, Woods' ball striking looks quite solid. He's found all three fairways and all four greens, but he's yet to get the putter going and thus finds himself one over.
Hole 3, par 4 - Par, +1
The early returns on the putting have not been ideal.
Woods put himself in good position on the 390-yard par 4, finding the fairway with a driving iron and leaving just a sand wedge into a front pin. His approach kicked forward off the fringe and rolled out to about nine feet, but his birdie effort stayed left and would not fall. Woods reacted by dropping his shoulders and shaking his head. He wanted that one.
Hole 2, par 3 - Par, +1
Tiger played safely to the center of the green from 200-ish yards, a solid shot that finished perfectly pin high and about 16 feet from the hole. His left-to-right birdie effort slid by on the low side and tumbled to about three feet, but he was able to clean that one up.
Hole 1, par 4 - Bogey, +1
Woods striped a driver off the 469-yard 1st hole at East Lake, then hit a short-iron just long and right of the hole to 25 feet. His birdie putt was a slippery one—the greens are rolling quick, and he was above the hole—and ran out to about five feet. His par effort was pushed and caught the right lip but didn't fall.
A disappointing three-putt bogey, and hopefully that's not a sign of what's to come today. Woods has struggled with his putting this summer, having switched between three flatsticks (he's got the Scotty Cameron in the bag this week).