Former US Masters Champion, Charl Schwartzel, opened with five-under 65 at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Thursday at Firestone Country Club, to sit one off the first round leader, Australian Marc Leisham.

Justin Rose and Ryan Moore also opened with 65's alongside Schwartzel while Patrick Reed, Ricky Fowler and Francisco Molinari sit two-shots further adrift.

Defending champion Tiger Woods, an eight-times winner at Firestone, had a mixed round firing six-birdies on his way to a two-under, 68 alongside, Sergio Garcia, Keegan Bradley and Brandt Snedeker.

Open Championship winner Rory McIlroy, world number one Adam Scott, Fedex Cup leader Jimmy Walker and PGA Tour money-list table topper Bubba Watson are amongst a larger group on one-under.

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Schwartzel who finished tied seventh in the recent Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, started slowly over the first few holes, however the some good touch on the greens helped him gather some momentum with a five-under blitz in just six-holes, to give him a sound platform for the remainder of the tournament.

"It started off not being my A-game,'' he said. "I was left and right and hitting some great recovery shots and just not losing any momentum.

"I made a fantastic birdie on the very first hole I played at the trees. I made a whole bunch of pars from there. It was maybe after that bogey that I actually started hitting some really decent shots. I hit a great tee shot on two, and I kept that feeling.''

Amazing shot by Schwartzel at the Volvo Golf Championship 2014

The 29-year old South African was struggling with a stiff back the day before, claiming that a massage could have been to blame for his slow start.

"I was having a bit of pain in my back yesterday, and the muscles were really tight,'' he said. "So, last night he did a really deep, sort of physio treatment on me, which made the muscles feel pretty sore actually in a way.

"I find sometimes, when I do that that close to playing, I almost feel like I lose a bit of feel and a bit of touch.

"I'm guessing that's sort of what happened for the first nine holes is just not feeling right. So as it progressed, it just seemed to get a little bit better. Sometimes after making a bogey, you sort of lose some expectation, or you free up more. I'm guessing that's what happened.''

Schwartzel tee's off alongside Jamie Donaldson in round two at 1:50pm local time.

The final warm-up tournament ahead of the PGA Championship next week from Valhalla, was overshadowed following the announcement by Dustin Johnson that he will be taking indefinite leave from the sport due to personal problems. 

Topics:
Rory McIlroy
Bubba Watson
PGA Tour
Charl Schwartzel
Golf
Sergio Garcia
Tiger Woods