Five-times champion Tiger Woods, helped by a sizzling run of four consecutive birdies after the turn, charged into contention at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando yesterday.
The American world number one, playing only his third event of the year after being sidelined by knee injury for eight months, fired a two-under-par 68 in the opening round at Bay Hill Club. Woods mixed five birdies with one bogey and a double-bogey at the par-five sixth to end a blustery day two strokes behind early pacesetters Tim Herron and Jeff Overton.
"I held it together with some good up-and-downs towards the end of the front nine and on the back nine, I started hitting it better," the 33-year-old Woods said. "I made some putts and consequently I got it under par."
Defending champion at Bay Hill, Woods is bidding for a record sixth victory at the PGA Tour event hosted by Palmer. After struggling with his putter last week on his way to a tie for ninth in the WGC-CA Championship at Doral, he was delighted to regain his touch on the greens. "I just scored," said Woods. "I didn't get anything out of my rounds down there at Doral but I probably got the maximum out of my round today."
After holing out with a wedge from 33 yards to birdie the par-four first, Woods pulled his tee shot left into water to run up a double-bogey seven at the sixth.
Out in one-over-par 36, he rattled up four birdies in a row from the 11th before dropping another shot at the par-three 17th, where he missed the green to the left off the tee.
He narrowly missed an 11-foot birdie putt at the last but remained happy. "I'm just going to keep doing what I am doing," Woods said. "Try and put the ball in play. I didn't do that today but I'm going to have to do that tomorrow and come the weekend."
Fellow American Herron, champion at Bay Hill Club in 1999, piled up six birdies and two bogeys to soar to the top of the leaderboard with a 66. "I hit a lot of fairways and when it was needed I hit some shots in there close and capitalised on some putts," Herron said. "I feel like I'm hitting it well, I'm putting well, I'm chipping it well and my bunker play is always pretty good."
* Seve Ballesteros is to undergo a fourth round of chemotherapy as he continues treatment for brain cancer. The 51-year-old Spaniard, a five-time major winner, had four brain operations to remove a tumor in October.