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Rediff.com  » Sports » Tiger wins opening match on return

Tiger wins opening match on return

February 26, 2009 12:21 IST

Tiger Woods ended his eight-month absence from the PGA Tour in triumphant style by beating Australian Brendan Jones 3&2 at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona on Wednesday.

The American world number one, sidelined by injury since his US Open victory last June, launched his title defence with a birdie at the opening hole before sealing the win on the 16th.

Although his form over the front nine was a little erratic, he thrilled the fans by rolling in a 20-foot eagle putt from the fringe at the par-five 13th to go four up.

On a hot afternoon in the Arizona desert, Woods lifted his putter with his left hand in celebration after the ball had tracked toward the hole before dropping into the cup.

Although Jones eagled the par-four 15th after driving the green to cut the deficit to three, Woods claimed victory at the par-three 16th where both players parred.

"I felt good and I got off to a quick start, which certainly helps," Woods told reporters. "I hit some good shots early, had some loose irons there in the middle part of the round but then got back.

"I hit it well all day, except for just a couple of loose irons," added the 33-year-old American, who had not played competitive golf since his playoff victory over fellow American Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines.

"I felt like we hadn't been gone. It was like business as usual."

Asked how his left knee had performed, following his reconstructive surgery, Woods replied: "I felt for sure it would be a little bit more stiff than it was.

"But it held up, it felt good. I feel good now. I'm sure I'll probably be a little bit sore later but a bit of ice and elevation and I'll be good to go tomorrow."

WOODS COMEBACK

In one of sport's most hotly anticipated comebacks, Woods was greeted by loud cheers when he walked on to the tee at the first munching on a banana shortly after noon.

Shouts of "Come on Tiger" and "Welcome back Tiger" echoed as around 400 fans welcomed the return of the 14-times major champion at Dove Mountain's Ritz-Carlton Golf Club.

After the starter called out: "From the United States, Tiger Woods," the American tapped his golf cap to acknowledge the applause before striking a perfect three-wood down the right side of the fairway.

From there, he struck a superb eight-iron approach to five feet and calmly rolled in the putt for the birdie.

Jones, the world number 64, had found the left rough off the tee and a greenside bunker with his approach as Woods immediately took control of the match.

At the par-five second, he unleashed an immaculate second shot to within six feet of the flag, prompting an abbreviated fist pump followed by a conceded eagle putt as he went two up.

After Woods traded bogeys with Jones at the third and fifth, his lead was trimmed to one when he dropped another shot at the seventh after failing to reach the green in two.

However, he recovered with another birdie at the par-five eighth, rolling in a six-footer to regain his two-hole cushion.

Although Jones fell four behind after bogeying the par-three 12th and watching Woods eagle the 13th, he holed a seven-foot par putt at the 14th to keep the match alive.

Jones then eagled the 343-yard 15th after driving the green and knocking in a 10-footer but it was too late and Woods sealed victory on the 16th.

Source:
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