DORAL, Fla. - Tiger Woods was on his game, and so were most of the world best golfers Thursday in the Cadillac Championship.
Except for the world's No. 1 player.
Woods made nine birdies on the Blue Monster at Doral for a 6-under 66 that put him in a five-way share of the lead with Masters champion Bubba Watson, former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia and Freddie Jacobson.
This World Golf Championship lived up to its name with Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Hunter Mahan among those one shot behind.
But it was another rough day for Rory McIlroy.
He hit only three fairways and made six bogeys that kept him at par or worse on a perfect day for scoring. Despite making a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-5 first hole, and lacing a 5-iron over the water for another eagle attempt on the par-5 eighth that narrowly missed, the best he could manage was a 73.
At Trump Doral Golf Club and Resort
Purse: $8.75 million
Yardage: 7,334; Par 72 (36-36)
Bo Van Pelt34-34-68
Charles Howell III35-33-68
Rafael Cabrera Bello34-37-71
McIlroy has yet to break par this year.
McIlroy played alongside Woods and Luke Donald - Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in the world - and while this essentially is a home game for Woods having won three times at Doral, the occasional shouts of "You're the real No. 1, Tiger" rang true.
Coming off a pedestrian performance a week ago at the Honda Classic, Woods looked sharp in most aspects of his game, except for a few lapses with his chipping. He wasted two early birdies with a three-putt bogey on the 13th hole and a delicate flop shot that he flubbed on the 14th, leading to another bogey. His chip up the slope on the third didn't reach the green for another bogey.
That's all that was wrong.
He holed two long birdie putts, including a sliding, slippery putt from about 40 feet on the par-3 fourth hole, and missed four reasonable chances inside 15 feet. His final birdie was on the par-5 eighth, when he had to lay up from a fairway bunker and hit a wedge that stopped 2 feet from the hole.
Garcia and McDowell were in the same group. Not only did they have bogey-free rounds, both birdied the same four holes. Jacobson made two eagles in a span of three holes, both times hitting a 5-wood onto the green to just over 12 feet.
Watson played in the group with Mickelson and Stricker, and they were a collective 16-under par.
Stricker had a chance to tie for the lead except he missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the final hole. Mickelson, as usual, kept it entertaining. He pulled his tee shot on the 17th hole and his ball stopped rolling after it traveled some 450 yards. He purposely took a free drop on the cart path to avoid the rough, and chipped that to about 5 feet for birdie.
For everyone else, it wasn't much of a battle in the opening round with a gentle breeze and warm sunshine. The fairways were firm and running fast, allowing the Blue Monster to play shorter. The average score was 70.8, and only 16 players in the 65-man field were over par.