After rehabbing a knee injury, Tiger Woods was happy to be back on the course at the Accenture Match Play Championship.
Matt York / AP Enlarge
MARANA, Ariz. - Eight months later, Tiger Woods looked as though he had never been away.
Woods made a triumphant return to golf yesterday 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 to within five feet for birdie. Then came a fist pump when his 3-iron from 237 yards on the par-5 2nd 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."
Woods celebrates after watching his eagle putt fall into the cup on the 13th hole. He won the first two holes, then cruised to a 3-and-2 victory over Brendan Jones. He plays Tim Clark next.
Matt York / AP Enlarge
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.
"It held up," he said. "It felt good."
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, 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 8th with a six-foot putt.
Jones never got any closer.
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 Lefty birdied the 19th hole.
Other top players were not so fortunate.
Sergio Garcia, the No. 2 seed, lost to Charl Schwartzel on the 18th hole when the Spaniard hit into the bunker and made bogey.
University of Toledo sophomore Erica Rivard has been named Mid-American Conference's co-golfer of the week along with Eastern Michigan's Darby Peters. It is the third time this season Rivard has been honored as player of the week.
The Tecumseh, Ont., native led the Rockets to a 16th place finish out of 43 teams at the Kiawah Island Classic this week. She equaled her career-low 54-hole score of 228 to finish in a tie for 25th out of 215 golfers. Rivard's 1-under 71 was UT's best round this season.