Tiger Woods Returns to Competitive Golf With Easy Win on First Day of Match Play Championship

"It felt like nothing had changed. . . . It was like business as usual," Tiger Woods said after ousting Brendan Jones at the Match Play Championship. (By Chris Carlson -- Associated Press)
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Associated Press
Thursday, February 26, 2009

Eight months later, Tiger Woods looked as though he had never been away.

Woods made a triumphant return to golf yesterday in the World Golf Championships Match Play Championship in Marana, Ariz., 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 within five feet for birdie. Then came a gentle fist pump when his 3-iron from 237 yards on the par-5 second settled four feet from the cup for eagle.

He closed out Brendan Jones of Australia with a three-foot par on the 16th hole for a 3-and-2 victory.

"It felt like nothing had changed," Woods said. "Walking down the fairway, it was like 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 world's No. 1 player, Woods showed no sign of the reconstructive surgery done on his left knee a week after winning the U.S. Open last June.

"It held up," he said. "It felt good."

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 six-foot putt.

Phil Mickelson, who blew a four-shot lead at Riviera and rallied to win three days ago, did it again. He was 4 up on Angel Cabrera with five holes to play until the Argentine caught him, but Mickelson birdied the 19th hole.

Other top players were not so fortunate.

Sergio GarcĂ­a, the No. 2 seed, lost to Charl Schwartzel on the 18th hole when the Spaniard hit into the bunker and made bogey.

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