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Thursday, July 31, 2014
Marc Leishman takes lead after 64

ESPN.com news services

AKRON, Ohio -- For many of the players here at the Bridgestone Invitational, the opening round of this World Golf Championship felt like either a warmup or an audition for bigger events to follow.

That left Marc Leishman of Australia with the perfect formula Thursday in the opener at Firestone, a big golf course where good scores are available by keeping the ball in play.

Leishman shot a 64 on an otherwise soft, gentle day of scoring to take the lead.

Ryan Moore was among three players at 65, a good start for someone looking for one big week to get him on the Ryder Cup team.

Two more Ryder Cup hopefuls -- Patrick Reed and Francesco Molinari of Italy -- were among those another shot back, while defending champion Tiger Woods opened with a 68 in his best round since his return from back surgery and the successive recovery effort.

Open Championship winner Rory McIlroy, who next week will chase his second straight major, was among the leaders until not paying attention to packed sand in a bunker that sent him to a double-bogey late in his round. He still wound up with a 69.

Leishman, meanwhile, continued to go about his work in quiet, reasonable form, after top 10s recently at Congressional and Royal Liverpool.

"I drove the ball well. It makes this course a lot easier when you're on the fairway," Leishman said. "It's pretty tough when you're playing from the rough. Then, I hit my irons really well and was rolling the ball awesome. So it's a pretty good combination for a tough golf course like this, something I can hopefully keep going."

Charl Schwartzel and Justin Rose joined Moore one shot out of the lead.

Phil Mickelson's biggest struggle was with his health. He didn't arrive in Ohio until Wednesday night because of strep throat, and he opened with a 71.

McIlroy appeared to pick up where he left off in England. He wasn't expecting a hangover from winning his third major and didn't experience one except for his mistake from the bunker on the eighth hole.

"There's still so much to play for," he said. "No. 1 spot is up for grabs. Trying to get myself as far up the FedEx Cup points as possible. I haven't won a World Golf Championship before. Got another major coming up next week. It hasn't been that hard for me to refocus and get back to work."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.