California: Tiger Woods came into this week`s Chevron World Challenge with a glint in his eye and growing confidence in his game but strong winds in first round made it impossible for him to assess his progress.
The former world number one birdied four of his first five holes on the way to a solid three-under-par 69 at Sherwood Country Club where swirling gusts of up to 35 miles per hour (56 km/h) made the back nine something of a lottery.
"It was hard to tell anything out there because it (the wind) was just dancing all over the place," Woods told reporters after ending the day in a tie for second place, three strokes behind South Korean KJ Choi.
"We played (hole) six, our second shot. My second shot was downwind and Strick`s was into the wind, going the same direction," he said, referring to his American playing partner Steve Stricker who also carded a 69.
"And then I hit my second shot on 16. It (the wind) was supposed to be in, off the left and it went down, off the right.”
"So it`s tough out there. You can look at the scores. No one`s really doing much. Once the wind started blowing, maybe one or two under par was probably about it since it was howling out there."
Woods, who has been working on the fourth swing change of his career, was one of only six players in the elite field of 18 who broke par on Thursday when the average score was 72.944.
Overall, though, he was encouraged by his start in the tournament which he hosts, and has won four times in 11 appearances.
"Absolutely," said Woods, whose world ranking has slipped to 52nd since his private life unravelled at the end of 2009. "Anything under par was a good day today, with the wind up.
"If the wind stayed down, you`re going to have to shoot something probably around 68 or below for it to be a good score. But to be in the red (under par) was a good day today."
Form Down Under
Woods has not triumphed anywhere since the 2009 Australian Masters but he arrived at Sherwood earlier this week in upbeat mood about his game after an encouraging fortnight of competition in Australia.
Fully fit for the first time in several years, he took great comfort from the way he was able to cope with the wind in Australia where he finished third in the national open then won the point that sealed the Presidents` Cup for the U.S.
"Normally, anybody who makes swing changes, you get exposed in the wind when the wind`s hauling, you miss-hit shots, or it`s going to show up," the 35-year-old American said.
"I felt very comfortable in that wind, which was great. Playing in Oz for two weeks, it was fantastic. I hit all shapes, all trajectories, and if you look at the rounds, I hit most of my shots pin high.”
"That`s an indication if the wind`s blowing that hard, that I`m really controlling my trajectory at all. What I`ve worked on with (coach) Sean (Foley) is now integrated. I know when I hit a bad shot ... so I can rectify for the very next shot."
Woods, who won the most recent of his 14 major titles at the 2008 US Open, was especially enthusiastic about his 2012 campaign.
"I`m excited about the progress I`ve made, and really looking forward to next year," he said.
"It`s going to be fun to get out there and play a full schedule, which I haven`t done for quite some time. I`ll get my number of events in and prepare and practise and play at my normal pace getting ready for the major championships."
Woods will hold even greater expectations for his 2012 campaign if he can go on to secure a victory at Sherwood Country Club this week where he knows the course better than anyone else in the field.