Woods returning to his best Down Under

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The Independent Online

Tiger Woods produced his most consistent ball-striking display since he remodelled his swing for a two-under 69 to finish within touching distance of the Australian Masters first-round leaders. Woods made three birdies and a bogey in his first round in near perfect conditions at Victoria Golf Club but was left to rue some wayward putting as he finished four shots adrift of Australian trio Alistair Presnell, Adam Bland and Daniel Gaunt.

"That was probably the highest score I could have shot today," he said. "I really played well and hit a lot of good shots. I'm probably hitting the ball better for stretches of six or seven holes but nothing like this for the entire day. I really hit it good today."

Woods has not won a title since claiming the gold jacket at nearby Kingston Heath on Melbourne's sandbelt a year ago, shortly before stories about his personal life developed into a storm that wrecked his marriage, tarnished his clean-cut image and caused him to take a break from golf. He also remodelled his swing under the tutelage of Sean Foley earlier this year and said he felt this round was the best he had hit the ball since then.

"I gave myself a bunch of looks for birdie," he said. "Every putt was just a little bit shy. I was hitting them on all my lines but I wasn't hitting them hard enough and they were dying in front of the lip. If I just could have holed a few more, it could have been a really good round. It could have been four, five, six under... but I'm right there."