- Arnold Palmer Invitational, Round One
Tiger allays fears with strong showing
Tiger Woods eased concerns over his form and fitness with an encouraging outing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a single bogey the only blot in an otherwise impressive opening 69.
Woods was forced to withdraw from the WGC-Cadillac Championship earlier this month due to an Achilles problem, prompting fears over whether he will be ready in time for The Masters, which starts on April 5.
The 14-time major champion endured mixed fortunes on his return at the Tavistock Cup earlier this week, but there is now reason for optimism after a largely positive showing at the Bay Hill Club.
Woods, who complained of a sore back during Wednesday's pro-am, quickly established a rhythm after teeing off from the 10th. He picked up a shot at the par-five 12th, before draining back-to-back birdies three holes later to sound a warning to his rivals.
The inconsistency that continues to plague the former world No. 1 was evident, however, as he came a cropper before the turn, dropping a shot on the 17th. Unperturbed, he battled on and five consecutive pars helped get that blip out of his system, before a strong finish left him among the chasing pack on three-under-par.
Charlie Wi is in a tie for the lead with Jason Dufner, after posting an impressive six-under 66. Wi hit nearly 78 per cent of greens in regulation and showed his form with the short stick by only requiring 28 putts during the round. An eagle at the par-five 16th was Dufner's golden moment, and if he can find more greens in regulation (66 per cent) then he will be well set going into the weekend.
Fellow American Nick Watney is their closest challenger after a four-under 68. An immediate birdie instantly put a spring in his step, but two bogeys in quick succession cut short any lingering celebrations. He dusted himself down and picked up shots at the sixth and ninth to hit the turn in 35. Better was to follow as three more birdies arrived on the back nine and no more errors saw him end the day one stroke better off than compatriot Woods.
Justin Rose, who triumphed at the WGC-Cadillac Championship a couple of weeks ago, equalled Woods' effort with four birdies and a bogey in a heartening 69. K.J Choi and Anthony Kim, who enjoyed a hole-in-one at the par-three 17th, were also among those who finished three shots adrift of the co-leaders.
Englishman Ian Poulter is at one-under, while Spain's Sergio Garcia had to made do with a level-par 72.