• World Challenge, Round One

Wayward Woods fights to stay in touch with Watney

ESPN staff
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Tiger Woods was errant off the tee on day one © PA Photos
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Tiger Woods battled with his swing on day one of the World Challenge in California but ultimately showed enough quality to move within three shots of leader Nick Watney.

Woods regularly strayed either side of the fairway as he kicked off the defence of his title, finding himself in the rough on several occasions, notably at holes five, six, eight and 16.

The tournament host was typically precise with his short game though, rescuing several pars with testing putts, and a two-under 70 gave him a platform from which to attack over the next three days.

"I didn't hit it very well today so it was nice to scrape out a good score," Woods said on Sky Sports. "It's not bad [out there]. It didn't rain today, it was overcast and there were some moments when it got a little warm. It's nice, it's not uncomfortable and hopefully we can dodge that storm on Sunday."

Watney is the pace-setter after he found an extra gear to accelerate away from his rivals on the back nine. Having turned at one-under, Watney hit three birdies in four holes to top the pile, before he drained another at the last for a five-under 67. He finished the day as the only man in the field not to drop a shot.

Keegan Bradley had earlier posted a three-under 69, the American continuing with his long putter despite this week's announcement that the anchoring of such tools against the body will likely be banned from the start of 2016. Bradley was flawless for four birdies through 17 holes at Sherwood Country Club, but he bogeyed the last to spoil his day.

He was later joined by Graeme McDowell, who birdied 17 and 18 to move level with his Ryder Cup rival. McDowell reached the turn without producing anything of note, but two birdies at the start of the back nine followed by two more the other side of a solitary bogey saw him post a very promising 69.

"It's a golf course where, if you can keep it on the fairway off the tee, it offers a lot of great birdie opportunities and the greens are always fantastic here. If you hit good putts they generally go in," said McDowell, who is also level with Jim Furyk.

Woods started his round with a birdie at the second but by the turn he was back to level-par after he found trouble at the eighth. He picked up further strokes at 11 and 13 to gather momentum, and then recovered from a truly awkward lie at 16 to stick at two-under.

Bo van Pelt and Webb Simpson are level with the former world No. 1 in a tie for fifth.

Elsewhere, Ian Poulter had a day to forget as he stumbled from one horror show to the next, hitting four bogeys as well as a double-bogey six at the par-four 14th. The Brit did recover late on with a couple of birdies to settle for a one-over 73, leaving him tied for 11th on the 18-man leaderboard.

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