Tiger Woods equalled his lowest round of the year but still finished just a stroke clear of Irish pair Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy after the opening round of his annual Chevron World Challenge at Sherwood County Club.
The world No 2 got to eight under par before making his only error of the day at the 18th, where he skied his drive into trees on the right, chipped back into play and two putted for a bogey and a seven under par 65.
McDowell, back at the scene of his career-changing runner-up finish in 2009, also bogeyed the last as he matched playing partner McIlroy with a six under 66.
Despite flying for 17 hours from Dubai to Los Angeles earlier this week, the Ulster pair combined for a better ball 61 in ideal conditions.
McDowell said: “It was just perfect scoring conditions. The greens here at Sherwood Country Club are unbelievable. You just have to get the ball rolling, and if it’s on line it’s going in.
“Just a lot of fun to play with Rory out there today. We kind of fed off each other. He got off to a good start and I kind of got going then, and like I say, we just kept making a lot of birdies out there, and it was fun scoring conditions.”
Playing his sixth event on the trot following his brave but ultimately unsuccessful bid to deny Martin Kaymer the Race to Dubai, McDowell birdied the third, fifth, sixth and ninth to turn in 32.
He eagled the par-five 11th with a 225-yard hybrid to 11 feet to take the outright lead on six under, then birdied the short 12th before losing his scoring touch down the stretch.
“I’m feeling surprisingly good I have to say,” McDowell said of his battle with fatigue. “Jet lag has been a little tough this week. I’ve been waking up at 3:00 a.m. every morning just getting ready to go.”
Shrugging off his bogey at the last, where he bunkered his second and missed a 25 footer for par, McDowell is looking forward to seeing if Woods will be the host with the most this week.
“Six-under par is never a bad score anywhere in the world, so of course very happy with that and looking to try and build on that as the weekend goes on.
“Obviously the host, he’s in good form. He’s been looking like he’s starting to play well the last couple months since the Ryder Cup, really, he looked ominously good, and great to see him up there. He does great things for this tournament, and of course we’ll be trying to catch him this weekend.”
McIlroy birdied his first three holes and then traded bogeys at the par-five fifth and short eighth with birdies at the sixth and ninth to turn in three under 33.
Like McDowell, he also eagled the 11th, curling home a 12 footer there to move to five under and picking up another shot at the par-three 15th with a daring approach to just three feet.
Woods holed little on the greens - he birdied all five of the par-fives by two putting - and added three more birdies before that late mistake.
“Nice drive on 18,” he told his Twitter followers after the round.
Speaking later, Woods said: “I played good today. I really striped it, hit a lot of good shots. It’s weird, I was telling Steve down there, it’s not too often you can say I shot 65 and only made one putt, but that’s kind of what I did today. I only made one putt and it was on 9. The rest were either two-putts or kick-ins. It was a good ball-striking day.”