He played that way, too.
Woods took five practice swings, slow and measured, settled over the ball and then backed away to make sure he was aiming in the right direction. Then he launched his 3-wood down the fairway and went back to work.
Walking down the fairway, it felt like business as usual, he said. I thought I would be more nervous on the first tee. It just came back down to playing the game again, and that felt good.
His game looked as good as ever.
Woods made a triumphant return to golf Wednesday in the Accenture Match Play Championship with a birdie-eagle start and a convincing victory that showed golf what it had been missing in the 253 days since he limped his way to an epic U.S. Open title.
The gentle fist pump returned when he hit 3-iron from 237 yards to within 4 feet for eagle. He struck another familiar pose by slowly raising his putter over his head as a 20-foot eagle dropped on the 13th hole.
The only attention paid to his left knee came after a lengthy wait on the 315-yard 15th hole. Woods stretched his legs, then grabbed a 3-wood and drove onto the green.
He never trailed Brendan Jones of Australia, closing him out with a par save from bunker to win, 3 and 2.
Hes Tiger, Jones said. He does freakish stuff.
Woods said he had looked forward to the rush of competing. It was as if all that time away from golf had been bottled up inside him. And then it came gushing out on a scorching day on Dove Mountain, 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. Their cheers when Woods walked onto the tee could be heard all the way down the fairway.
You are back! one spectator shouted.
Was he ever.
First came an 8-iron to 5 feet for birdie. Then it was the 3-iron to 4 feet for eagle.
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 had not competed since reconstructive surgery on his left knee a week after winning the U.S. Open. It was the third time in five years Woods had surgery on his left knee, adding to the mystery of whether he would be as good as the player who has won 65 times on the PGA Tour, including 14 majors.
It held up, he said. It felt good.
His return dwarfed everything else that took place in the first round at The Ritz-Carlton Club.
Stewart Cink was the second match out, and there were only a few dozen fans in the bleachers. His game with Richard Sterne was tied after 18 holes, so they headed back to the first tee'making Woods and Jones wait a few extra minutes.