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Woods makes winning return from injury

PADRAIG Harrington and Sergio Garcia fell by the wayside in Wednesday's opening round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona while Tiger Woods made a triumphant start on his PGA Tour return.

Harrington, winner of three of the last six majors, lost by a hole to American Pat Perez and Spanish world No. 2 Garcia went down by the same margin to South African Charl Schwartzel.

Top-seeded Woods, back in action after an eight-month absence due to knee injury, thrilled a huge gallery on a sun-baked day at Dove Mountain's Ritz-Carlton Golf Club by beating Australian Brendan Jones 3&2.

"I think my game is right there but I didn't give myself the chances today and I was not as sharp as I could have been," fourth-ranked Harrington told reporters after losing in the first round for a fourth time. I lost it on the fifth hole. I missed a putt there and made a terrible five from the middle of the fairway when he was in trouble.

"Everything after that was a bit of a struggle," said the Irishman who went one down after bogeying the first and never led after that. "I had a few putts here and there but that was a momentum shift there."

Garcia survived a barrage of three consecutive birdies from the first by Schwartzel to go two up after 15 holes before losing a fluctuating encounter with a bogey at the last.

Defending champion Woods, making his hotly anticipated PGA Tour comeback, charged two up after a birdie-eagle start before wrapping up his win on the 16th green.

"I thought it would take me a little bit longer to get into the rhythm of the round but I came out as if I had it and it felt good," Woods said after piling up two eagles, three birdies and three bogeys.

"I hit a couple loose irons in the middle part of the round but, other than that, I really hit it pretty good all day."

Asked how his surgically reconstructed left knee had held up, the three-time champion replied: "I'm very pleased at how it felt all day.

"I thought that it would be more stiff on the 15th tee when I had to hit my shot after that long wait, but I felt fine."

World No. 3 Phil Mickelson squeezed past Argentina's Angel Cabrera after 19 holes, fellow American Anthony Kim crushed Chinese Taipei's Lin Wen-tang 7&5 and South African Ernie Els beat Dane Soren Hansen 4&2.

Britain's Oliver Wilson upset South Korean KJ Choi 3&1, American Zach Johnson won a high-quality contest with Britain's Graeme McDowell 3&1 and Japan's Shingo Katayama came from two down after 11 holes to beat South African Trevor Immelman 3&2.

In other matches, Colombia's Camilo Villegas thumped Australian Rod Pampling 7&6 and Britain's Lee Westwood beat Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng 2&1 with a flawless five-birdie display.


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