Woods made a triumphant return to golf Wednesday in the Accenture Match Play Championship with a start that showed golf what it had been missing in the 253 days since he limped his way to an epic U.S. Open title.
Just past high noon in the desert, Woods fired an 8-iron into 5 feet for birdie. Then came a gentle fist pump when his approach to the par-5 second settled 4 feet from the cup for eagle.
He closed out Brendan Jones of Australia with a 3-foot par on the 16th hole for a 3-and-2 victory.
I told Stevie I felt like we havent been away, Woods said, referring to caddie Steve Williams. It was business as usual.
But this was no ordinary day.
Before thousands of fans who scurried through the high desert, eager to see every shot from the worlds No. 1 player, Woods never showed any indication that he had reconstructive surgery on his left knee a week after winning the U.S. Open.
It held up, he said. It felt good.
Woods said he had looked forward to the nerves of standing on the first tee and the rush of competing. It was as if all that time away from golf had been bottled up inside of him. And then it came gushing out on a scorching day north of Tucson, where temperatures approached 90 degrees.
Fans packed into the bleachers around the first tee, with more lined up behind the ropes all the way to the green, and the cheer when Woods walked onto the tee could be heard all the way down the fairway.
Woods backed off his tee shot, and without much expression, belted a fairway metal down the right side of the fairway.
You are back! one spectator shouted.
Was he ever.
He won the first two holes before some rust settled in. Woods made three bogeys over his next five holes and was leading, 1 up, until he birdied the par-5 eighth with a 6-foot putt.
Jones never got any closer.
Woods seized control of the match when Jones couldnt save par behind the green on the par-3 12th, and then Woods struck another familiar pose by raising his putter above his head as his 20-foot eagle putt dropped on the 13th.