Hampered by a sprained ligament in his left knee following an encounter with a fan Wednesday, Woods carded a six-under-par 66 on the toughest of the three courses in rotation for this week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
As a result, he finds himself in prime position to win at Pebble Beach for the third time in just one year.
'It's a great start, especially here,' said Woods, who shot 73 at Spyglass en route to his victory a year ago.
Tiger's 66 was good enough to place him two shots off the first-round lead, held by David Berganio, Jr. Playing Spyglass, Berganio carded eight birdies to nary a bogey for a flawless round of eight-under-par 64.
Not that anyone was really watching; as fans and media, alike, stalked Tiger shot for shot.
Tiger knew all along that he would play on Thursday. He teased the media the day prior, saying he might not be able to compete at the venue of his 2000 AT&T and U.S. Open triumphs.
Following his practice round on Wednesday, an over-zealous fan ran into Tiger while hounding him for an autograph.
'It felt sore, yes,'' Woods said. 'But when it's time to play, it's time to play. A friend of mine told me there's a difference between pain and injury.''
Woods arrived an hour before his 8:50am first-round tee time sporting a knee brace, which he promptly removed before playing.
His day began with a birdie at the par-five first. After striping a driver 321 yards down the fairway, Woods reached the green in two by hitting an equally impressive three-wood from 274.
Tiger next picked-up a pair of shots on the fifth and seventh holes, though he gave them right back with bogeys on the sixth and eighth holes.
One-under-par upon making the turn, Woods made his ascent up the leaderboard on the back nine. A putter, that earlier in the day was balkier than his knee, came through down the stretch. After opening his inward half with a pair of red numbers, Woods carded three more to close his round.
As was the case Wednesday, Tiger avoided the practice range following his round, instead opting to rest his knee.
'It's definitely sore,' Woods said. 'It was more sore at the beginning once I started playing, but once it got warm it was fine.'
Woods and company will play Poppy Hills on Friday. The foursome will tee off at 8:00am local time.
News, Notes and Numbers
*Jerry Chang may have outplayed his former Stanford teammate on Thursday. Chang had seven birdies while playing from the regular tees. Said Woods: 'He definitely carried me. I rode his back today, and the spurs were pretty deep inside him.' Chang and Woods lead the Pro-Am portion of the event after shooting a better-ball 13-under-par 59.
*Greg Rita, who has caddied for Curtis Strange, John Daly and Scott Hoch, is on Ken Griffey, Jr's bag this week.
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