DORAL, Fla. — Freddie Jacobson has been on a hot streak and he hopes it keeps going before he runs out of steam.
Jacobson shot a 6-under-par 66 in Thursday’s opening round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship. He shared the lead with four others, including Tiger Woods, on a gorgeous day at Trump Doral’s Blue Monster.
The combination of the 7,266-yard course being in terrific shape and light winds that got lighter as the day went on allowed 49 of the limited field’s 65 players to shoot par or better.
On Tuesday, Ernie Els had predicted a birdie-fest if the wind didn’t blow too hard. Unfortunately for Els, he wasn’t invited to the party, as the two-time winner here shot 73. That put him in a tie for 50th with five others, including Rory McIlroy.
Joining Jacobson and Woods at the top of the leaderboard were Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson and Graeme McDowell. Four players were at 67, including Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan, who had six birdies and a bogey on his front nine to go out in 5 under and three birdies and three bogeys coming in.
“This course is playing pretty firm, so if you hit it in the fairway, there’s not going to be a ton of long shots,” said Jacobson, who had two eagles, three birdies and a bogey and needed only 24 putts. “If you’re in the rough, you don’t get any control on the ball from this grass.
“This is the sixth week in a row for me, so I’m running on fumes a little bit at the moment and got a bit of a head cold going, so I wasn’t too sure how I was going to play today. I didn’t feel great warming up, so I’m really happy just to get off to a good start and hopefully find some energy.”
Woods, a three-time winner at the Blue Monster — his last victory here was in 2007 — also got off to a good start.
He birdied his first two holes. Then he bogeyed the next two, but added seven more birdies and a bogey.
Jacobson opened birdie-bogey and birdied No. 5.
At the 538-yard par-5 8th, Jacobson reached the green with a 239-yard 5-wood and sank a 17-foot putt for eagle.
At the 531-yard 10th, he hit a 249-yard 5-wood to 14 feet and made the putt.
He made one more birdie at 15.
Jacobson, 38, who is from Sweden and lives in Hobe Sound, said he’s played so much because he’s played so well. He’s had three top-10 finishes in his previous five events, including a tie for third at the Northern Trust Open.
That moved him into the top 50 of the world rankings, which got him into the Accenture Match Play Championship the following week, as well as this week’s event. He finished tied for 25th at last week’s Honda Classic at PGA National.
“I’ve had a pretty good start to the year,’” Jacobson said. “It’s been really consistent.
“The good play early on got me into the Match Play and into this one. Last week it would have been a natural week off for me, but that was my home tournament and I really love to play there.”
Garcia, of Spain, and McDowell, of Northern Ireland, who played in a group with Webb Simpson, who shot 72, had the cleanest rounds — six birdies, no bogeys.
“The greens were firm and fast. Pins were tucked away in places,” said McDowell, who shot 33-33. “It was there for the taking a little bit, but you had to hit good shots.”
Garcia, who shot 32-34, said had the wind been blowing like it did during Wednesday’s practice round, scores would have soared.
“As firm as those greens were getting and as fast as they were getting, it would have been quite tricky out there,” Garcia said. “Conditions were pretty good. A little breeze here and there, but not too bad.”
Watson also went out in 32, posting five birdies and a bogey. He birdied Nos. 15 and 16 to get to 6 under. His playing partners were Mickelson and Steve Stricker, who both had five birdies to shoot 67.
“When you’re playing with two greats like Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson, for me, it steps my game up,” Watson said. “Or I need to step it up or I’m going to be embarrassed, you know?”