Tiger Woods overcame a front-nine wobble to win his opening match at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in his much-anticipated comeback from an eight-month injury lay-off.
Woods, up against Australian Brendan Jones at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, was playing for the first time since last June when he won the US Open before needing reconstructive knee surgery.
The world number one had started in determined fashion and to a huge roar from the packed stands around the first tee, winning the opening hole with a birdie.
He was quickly two up after Jones conceded the second but both players bogeyed the third and fifth and Woods bogeyed the par-four seventh as well.
He was quickly back in control though, going two up with a birdie at the eighth and forging further ahead when Jones overshot the green at the par-three 12th.
Woods then eagled the par-five 13th to put him within sight of victory and eventually closed out a 3&2 win on the 16th.
Northern Ireland teenager Rory McIlroy kept his hopes of facing Woods in the third round alive after he defeated South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen 2&1.
“Actually I found it quite difficult because he’s a good friend of mine and it’s always hard to play someone you know quite a lot about,” McIlroy said.
“We both didn’t play as well as we could, but I was able to just make my pars when I needed to and got the job done.”
McIlory now faces US Ryder Cup star Hunter Mahan in the second round and said he would resist all thoughts of a potential match with Woods.
“That’s a long way off for the minute,” the 19-year-old said. “But we’ll see what happens.”
Open and USPGA champion Padraig Harrington was involved in a struggle with American Pat Perez, trailing by two holes with three to play before winning the par-three 16th with a birdie.
Oliver Wilson set up a second-round meeting with Ryder Cup foe Anthony Kim with an upset victory on a great day for the English contingent.
Wilson, one of 20 Europeans and a record 47 European Tour members in the field, beat Korea’s KJ Choi 3&1.
Kim was the first player into the next round with a resounding 7&5 victory over Lin Wen-Tang, needing just his second birdie of the round to complete the job as the Taiwanese golfer posted seven bogeys over 13 holes.
Starting the good day for the English was Lee Westwood, who moved into the second round with a 2&1 win over Thailand’s Prayad Marksaeng.
Westwood now meets last year’s beaten finalist Stewart Cink, who needed 19 holes to defeat Richard Sterne of South Africa.
Phil Mickelson survived a late rally from Angel Cabrera to win at the 19th and set up a meeting with Zach Johnson, who defeated Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell 3&1, while Luke Donald was two up on Ben Curtis with four to play.
Paul Casey was another Englishman through to the second round after beating Aaron Baddeley by one hole to progress to a match with another Australian, Matt Goggin, who beat Kenny Perry.
Sergio Garcia went behind at the first hole to South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel and was still one down after 12.
Sweden’s Peter Hanson beat compatriot Robert Karlsson while Justin Rose lost to Ryder Cup rival Boo Weekley on the 18th.
Ian Poulter was five up after just eight holes against Jeev Milka Singh and cruising to victory.
Camilo Villegas crushed Rod Pampling 7&6 and will face Miguel Angel Jimenez, who beat South Africa’s Rory Sabbatini.
Henrik Stenson’s miserable day concluded with a defeat at the 21st hole to Davis Love III.
Stenson had earlier revealed to Golfweek magazine that he had been an investor with the Stanford Financial Group, whose owner Allen Stanford and two executives are now under investigation in the US for fraud.