Tiger Woods put himself among the leaders at the Arnold Palmer Invitational yesterday with a three-under-par 69 in the opening round of his first US PGA tournament since an injury scare.
The 14-time major winner pulled out of the World Golf Championships event at Doral two weeks ago in the final round with a tightness in his left Achilles tendon.
After a week of treatment, Woods played the two-day Tavistock Cup exhibition, a practice round on Thursday and his first tournament round yesterday at Bay Hill with no injury problems.
That's a good sign for Woods in his final tune-up event before the Masters, the year's first major championship, tees off in two weeks.
"I'm feeling good," Woods said. "Everything is good. No swelling. If I can just keep it that way, everything will be great."
Woods, who began off the 10th tee, birdied the par-5 12th and had back-to-back birdies at the par-4 15th and par-5 16th before taking his lone bogey of the day at 16. He answered with a final birdie at the par-5 sixth.
"I didn't really do anything great. I was just solid all day," Woods said. "I drove the ball well, hit my irons decent and putted all right.
"I took something off most of my drives. I didn't really feel great with my tee shots but I was getting the ball in play. The ball is flying forever. Normal drives go about 310 [yards]. It was kind of nice."
South Korean Charlie Wi and American Jason Dufner were the clubhouse leaders on 66, two strokes ahead of American Nick Watney with Woods among a host of players three adrift at the US$6 million ($7.4 million) event.
"I controlled the ball really well. I was able to make some putts," Wi said. "To shoot 66 is a very pleasant surprise."
Wi is not qualified for the Masters but would if he could win the US$1.08 million top prize.
"If I could give myself a chance to do it on Sunday, I would be very happy," Wi said.
Dufner had five birdies, a lone bogey to close the front nine and an eagle at the 16th to match Wi atop the leaderboard.