AKRON, Ohio — Tiger Woods appeared to face a big test Thursday in his return to golf.
It was a 3-wood around the trees on the 658-yard 16th hole at Firestone that required him to go at it hard, cut short his back swing to produce the sharp fade, then let the momentum of his motion carry his body forward with an awkward step.
Only it didn't feel like that big of a deal to Woods.
"I was just trying to hit a cut," he said. "I didn't feel any problem with that."
His only concern in the Bridgestone Invitational was that he hit the ball too flush and too far. He still managed three birdies, including a 30-foot putt on the 16th hole, that carried him to a 2-under 68 and sent a strong statement that his leg was as healthy as he thought.
His game wasn't half bad, either.
"It feels great," Woods said. "As anybody who's been off and who's been injured, first time back it's a little nervous to see what happens. But my practice sessions were good, so there's no reason why I should be worried out there. I went out there and let it go, let it rip and see what happens."
His ex-caddie saw some familiar golf at Firestone, too.
Steve Williams, now working permanently for Adam Scott after Woods fired him a month ago, watched the Australian match his career-low round on the PGA Tour with a 62 that gave Scott a one-shot lead over fellow Aussie Jason Day.
Williams was on the bag for all seven of Woods' wins at Firestone, including his 11-shot win in 2000 when Woods had a 61 in the second round and set the tournament record at 259.
Despite all the interest about Woods' return, there was nothing special about his score, even if it was his lowest opening round this year.
The conditions were so soft and calm that 39 players in the 78-man field broke par, a record number for any round in the 12 years this World Golf Championship has been played on Firestone South.
The scoring average was 69.63, the lowest since the opening round in 2001. Scott, who birdied four of his last six holes, had the lowest opening round ever at Firestone.
Day, who tied for second with Scott at the Masters, shot a 63 in the morning. Nick Watney, a World Golf Championship winner at Doral this year, bogeyed the last hole and still had a 65 in the afternoon.
"Probably not what we're used to seeing around this course, so it was good to take advantage of that," Scott said.
Even so, this day was primarily about one score, and one player.
The attention on Woods was so great that when he stepped onto the first tee, the gallery lined the entire right side of the 401-yard opening hole and wrapped around the green. Phil Mickelson was wrapping up his round of 67 at No. 9 when the fans around the green and in the grandstands had their backs turned to watch Woods tee off.
Woods played in soft spikes for the first time, and he went back to the putter that he used in 13 of his major championships.
O'Hern leads in Reno
Reno, Nev. — Australian left-hander Nick O'Hern made seven birdies and no bogeys for a 65 and a one-shot lead after the opening round of the Reno-Tahoe Open, the PGA Tour event going on opposite the Bridgestone.
Former Ryder Cup player Chris Riley was second after a 66. Kentucky alum Steve Flesch shot a 4-under 68 and shared sixth place.