Lee Westwood got the European challenge at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club off to a flying start as the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship began near Tucson today.
The Englishman, one of 20 Europeans and a record 47 European Tour members in the 64-man field at the first World Golf Championships event of the year, moved into the second round with a bogey-free, five-birdie 2&1 win over Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng in the opening match of first-round play.
Westwood, in the Ben Hogan bracket of the draw alongside top seed Vijay Singh and also including Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell and last year's beaten finalist Stewart Cink, had raced into a three-up lead after seven holes before the Thai won his first hole at the eighth.
Westwood lost again at the 15th but regained his two-hole lead at the next hole before sealing victory by halving the 17th.
"I did play well," Westwood said. "I was five under par and could have been a little better than that but Prayad played well and hung in there all day and started to come back at me on the back nine.
"I hit a great shot into 16 which sort of closed the game out - an eight iron to 18 inches which put me two up with two to play and I managed to halve 17."
Westwood now faces a second-round meeting with either Cink or Richard Sterne of South Africa, the American leading one up with four to play. Mickelson was three up over Angel Cabrera of Argentina through 10 holes.
US Ryder Cup star Anthony Kim was the first player into the next round when he mopped up a resounding victory over Lin Wen-Tang, 7&5, needing just his second birdie of the round to complete the job as the Taiwanese golfer posted seven bogeys over 13 holes.
Kim, in the Sam Snead bracket headed by Padraig Harrington, will face the winner of the first-round match between England's Oliver Wilson and Korea's KJ Choi, which the Englishman was leading one up after 12 holes.
Camilo Villegas, playing in Tiger Woods' quarter, the Bobby Jones bracket, was next into the clubhouse following a crushing 7&6 win over Rod Pampling and awaited a second-round date with either Miguel Angel Jimenez or South Africa's Rory Sabbatini, the Spaniard leading three up after 12 holes.
England's Paul Casey was another early starter off to a good start after he went 2-up in as many holes against Australia's Aaron Baddeley.
Casey birdied the par-four first and then eagled the par-five second before Baddeley won a hole back at the third, only for the Englishman to win the fourth. Baddeley narrowed the gap again with a birdie at the par-four seventh, leaving Casey with a 1-up lead after 10 holes as he bids to progress through the Gary Player bracket led by top seed and world number two Sergio Garcia.
Also in that bracket are compatriots Ian Poulter and new father Justin Rose as well as Swedish duo Peter Hanson and Robert Karlsson.
Rose, whose wife Kate gave birth to baby Leo on Saturday, was quickly on the back foot against Boo Weekley, the American Ryder Cup hero winning the first hole with a birdie four.
All eyes will be focused on Woods this evening when he makes his much-anticipated return to action after eight months on the sidelines following reconstructive knee surgery.
The world number one and defending champion here plays Australia's Brendan Jones this evening. The omens are not good for Jones or the rest of the field. Woods has won six of his 13 season openers including his last three.
Also in Woods' bracket is Northern Ireland teenager Rory McIlroy, all square after three holes with South African Louis Oosthuizen.
Wilson proved to be the man who will face Kim as he wrapped up a 3&1 win over Choi.
The English Ryder Cup player moved to two up with a birdie at the par-five 13th and sealed victory when the Korean bogeyed the 17th.
Asked how it felt to beating a player 25 places ahead of him in the world rankings, Wilson said: "Pretty good.
"It is not a good draw getting KJ. It was always going to be tough. He is a solid player tee to green and you are certainly not going to get him riled or anything and beat him mentally.
"So it was always going to be tough. I played pretty well. Played well on the front, not so well on the back but made some good up and downs. A big putt on 14 kept me two up and I managed to hang on from there."
Also through, Jimenez sealed his second-round date with Villegas by completing a two-up win over Sabbatini as the South African failed to close the gap further having won the 14th.