- Associated Press - Thursday, August 4, 2011

AKRON, OHIO — Tiger Woods said his left knee felt as strong as he thought it was. His game didn’t look half bad, either.

Playing for the first time in nearly three months, Woods made a strong opening statement Thursday that his health is no longer an issue by going after any shot from any lie in a round of 2-under 68 at the Bridgestone Invitational.

“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 the kind of golf he was used to seeing at Firestone, too.

Steve Williams, now working permanently for Adam Scott after Woods fired him a month ago, watched the Australian play flawlessly in matching his career-low round with a 62 that gave Scott a one-shot lead.

Williams was on the bag for all seven of Woods‘ wins at Firestone.

“He didn’t think it was a big deal to shoot 62,” Scott said. “It was normal.”

Woods, who last completed a round at the Masters, had his lowest opening round of the year. Considering the soft conditions, it only was worth a tie for 18th, six shots out of the lead.

With an overcast sky in the morning and barely any wind throughout the steamy afternoon, half of the 78-man field at this World Golf Championship broke par.

Jason 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.

Woods at least got himself pointed in the right direction.

Playing in soft spikes for the first time, and going back to the putter that he used in 13 of his major championships, Woods avoided a poor start by making an 18-foot par putt on the third, and he saved his round toward the end of the front nine by getting up-and-down from a bunker on the eighth, and making a 20-foot par putt on the ninth.

Then came his approach on the 10th, that spun out of the back fringe and settled about 4 feet away for birdie - not only his first of the day, but his first since he two-putted for birdie form 4 feet on the 15th hole at the Masters on April 10.

Woods injured a knee ligament and his Achilles’ tendon in that tournament, and then said he returned too early at The Players Championship. He aggravated the injuries on the first hole at the TPC Sawgrass on May 12 and quit after nine holes at 6 over par.

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