AKRON, Ohio — Tiger Woods showed signs of a positive recovery Thursday at the Bridgestone Invitational.


Not just from back surgery, but from making bogeys.


Woods bounced back with birdies all three times that he made mistakes, opening with a 2-under 68 on a soft, gentle day for scoring at Firestone. It left him four shots behind Marc Leishman of Australia, and hopeful that this time he can build on a solid start.


Woods opened with a 69 at the British Open two weeks ago, only to plunge down the leaderboard the rest of the week at Royal Liverpool.


“I hit a lot of good shots,” Woods said. “I dropped shots at three holes out there today (and) got it right back on the very next hole.”


For so many players, the opening round of this World Golf Championship felt like either a warmup or an audition for bigger events to follow. 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.


British Open champion 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 has quietly gone about his work in reasonable form, with top 10s recently at Congressional and Royal Liverpool. He had the perfect formula for Firestone, a big golf course where good scores are available by keeping the ball in play.


“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.


Watney scores big in Stableford event

RENO, Nev. — Nick Watney made nine birdies in a bogey-free round in the Barracuda Championship to take a two-point lead in the modified Stableford event.


Watney earned 18 points at Montreux Golf and Country Club. Players receive 8 points for double eagle, 5 for eagle, 2 for birdie, 0 for par, minus-1 for bogey and minus-3 for double bogey or worse.


Watney is making his first appearance in the event since 2008 after failing to qualify for the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational. He’s 124th in the FedEx Cup standings, with the top 125 getting into The Barclays – the playoff opener that he won in 2012 for the last of his five PGA Tour titles.


Geoff Ogilvy and Tim Wilkinson were tied for second.