PEBBLE BEACH, California (AFP) – (AFP) – Tiger Woods got his 2012 PGA Tour season off to a solid start, firing a four-under 68 at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am to sit five strokes back of a trio of leaders.
“I drilled it great today,” Woods said. “I feel much more confident with my game.”
The 14-time major winner was five strokes back of a threesome at the top of the leaderboard, New Zealand’s Danny Lee, Charlie Wi of South Korea and American Dustin Johnson who all reached nine-under.
Wi posted a course-record 61 on the par-70 Monterey Peninsula Country Club course while Johnson and Lee carded 63s on the par-72 Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Ken Duke and Brian Harman were tied for fourth just one stroke back of the leaders.
Woods, who is now ranked 18th in the world, made the turn at two-under on a bright sunny day on the Monterey Peninsula.
The ideal conditions saw a bevy of low scores.
Wi flirted with a 59 for much of the day on Monterey while two-time winner Johnson got off to a six-under start through six holes.
“Any time you are shooting nine-under you are making putts,” Wi said. “It was really nice to see the ball go in today.”
Woods, who was paired with Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, started from the 10th tee and began his round with back-to-back birdies. He also birdied the first hole of his back nine and had another chance to close with a birdie on his par-four final hole but missed his 18-foot putt to settle for a par.
“Boy the guys are tearing the golf course apart,” Woods said. “With the course like this you can’t get too far behind the leaders. You’ve got to take advantage of it (weather) because this (Spyglass) is the harder of the three courses.”
Former world number one Woods hit 11 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation in a round that included six birdies and two bogeys. He needed just 29 putts.
Overall Woods was pleased with his round but also felt there were some missed opportunities.
“I didn’t give myself enough looks when I had wedges in my hand,” Woods said. “I have to do a better job of that.
“With the scores the way they were I felt like I had to go lower than I did.”
Woods rolled in a birdie on his first hole, the par-four 10th, after his approach shot hit the flagstick and settled three feet from the hole for a short birdie putt.
Woods hit a solid drive on the par-five 11, landing about 180 yards from the pin. His approach stopped 14 feet from the hole, giving him a shot at an eagle but his next putt just brushed the cup, leaving him with a tap-in and back-to-back birdies to start the day.
Woods missed his bid to open with three consecutive birdies and had to settle for a tap-in par on the par-three 12th.
He made bogey on the par-four 13th but got back to two-under with a birdie on the 17th hole.
Woods, who rallied from far back to win this event in 2000, chose the Pebble Beach National to make his PGA Tour season debut after not playing in this event for the past decade. Woods’ last win on the PGA Tour was 27 months ago.
In his only other appearance this season, Woods finished third two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi.
Woods is one of just four of the top 20 in the world in the Pebble Beach field. The others comprise Johnson (No. 10), Nick Watney (No. 13) and Phil Mickelson (No. 17).