Golf: Woods returns to competition
By Doug Ferguson
MARANA, Ariz. ó Tiger Woods felt like he had never been away. He played that way, too.
Woods took five practice swings, 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 a 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, closing him out with a par save from bunker to win 3 and 2.
“He’s Tiger,” Jones said. “He does freakish stuff.”
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 he’s had surgery on that knee.
“It held up,” he said. “It felt good.”
Phil Mickelson, who blew a four-shot lead at Riviera and rallied to win three days ago, was 4 up on Angel Cabrera with five holes to play until the Argentine caught him. Mickelson birdied the 19th hole to win.
Sergio Garcia, the No. 2 seed, lost to Charl Schwartzel on the 18th hole when the Spaniard hit into the bunker and made bogey.
Third-seeded Padraig Harrington lost to Pat Perez on the 18th hole.
Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas had the shortest days. Kim never lost a hole in beating Lin Wen-Tang 7 and 5, and Villegas beat Rod Pampling 7 and 6.
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