The last time Henrik Stenson played in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational he finished last, with Tiger Woods only one place better off.

But today the pair go into the second round of the €7million event at Firestone Country Club in second and third place respectively behind former US Open champion Webb Simpson.

Simpson carded a six-under-par 64 to lead by one from Open runner-up Stenson, with Woods, defending champion Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore and England's Chris Wood a further stroke behind.

Stenson carded a flawless 65 that began with a birdie at the first and eagle at the par-five second, with the Swede picking up further shots at the 11th and 12th after changing shoes due to a painful blister.

The 37-year-old won his maiden European Tour title in 2001 but then went through the first of two career slumps, the second coming in 2011 and leaving him 230th in the world rankings at the start of last year.

"There's been some good work in progress for a long time and it's starting to show up," said Stenson, now back to 19th in the world after finishing third in the Scottish Open and second in the Open - both times behind Phil Mickelson.

"I'm very pleased with my progress and will keep on working away and see where it takes us. I've gone through two big slumps and it's frustrating at times, but I'm looking ahead now and instead of being caught up in every single week I am working at the bigger picture."

Speaking about his last appearance in the event, he joked: "In 2010 I played here with pneumonia I didn't know about. Saved Tiger from finishing last though, which I'm sure he appreciated."

Woods finished joint 78th on that occasion but has also won seven times at Firestone and carded an opening 66 which featured a flawless inward nine of 31.

"I'm very pleased with that, I thought I hit it pretty good today and really controlled it," the world number one said. "I missed a few putts in the 15-foot range but overall a pretty good day.

"If you shoot something in the 60s here it's always a good score but we have a long way to go. With the forecast, this course is supposed to dry out a little bit and get more difficult."

Luke Donald was four under with three holes to play but bogeyed the last to return a 67, while Ryder Cup team-mates Ian Poulter, Paul Lawrie and Justin Rose all shot 69.

World number three Rory McIlroy, looking to replicate the fifth place finish of last year which kick-started his season, also bogeyed the last in a round of 70, one better than Lee Westwood.