Australia's Adam Scott defied difficult, windy conditions on Doral's Blue Monster Thursday to seize a share of the first-round lead with Jason Dufner in the World Golf Championships Cadillac Championship.
Scott, making just his third start of the season, had four birdies in his first nine holes and finished with five birdies and an eagle against one bogey in his six-under par 66.
America's Dufner nabbed four of his seven birdies on his last nine holes, including a birdie at his last, the par-three ninth, where he hit his tee shot within three feet of the pin to join Scott atop the leaderboard.
"When you're in the fairway on a day like today, you get a chance to hit it somewhere near the hole, give yourself an opportunity," Scott said.
"If you're in the rough, it's very hard to even just hit the green, let alone give yourself a chance. I took advantage of the good shots early on, and then battled my way in from there."
Although he was playing just his sixth round of the season, Scott didn't show any signs of rust.
"I knew a good score was going to happen because every part of my game was feeling good," Scott said. "You've got to take away the expectation and just let it happen. But I wasn't too concerned."
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, making his first start since ascending to number one in the world rankings, opened with a one-over par 73 that included a three-putt bogey.
"It was a pretty tricky day, but obviously there was good scores out there," said McIlroy, who admitted he "felt a little flat".
"I don't know, I shouldn't, it's a World Golf Championship, but just felt a little flat out there," he said. "But, look, I'll go out there tomorrow and try my best, try and get it into red figures and see what I can do."
Tiger Woods, who finished runner-up to McIlroy in the Honda Classic on Sunday, tapped in for eagle at his opening hole but found the going tougher the rest of the way en route to an even par 72.
"It was just a difficult day," Woods said. "The wind was blowing putts around, and it made for a very challenging round."
Spain's Alvaro Quiros and Miguel Angel Jimenez, England's Justin Rose, Juvic Pagunsan of the Philippines, Australian Aaron Baddeley and Americans Kyle Stanley, Keegan Bradley and Steve Stricker were on 69 -- only a dozen players breaking 70 in the fierce winds.
England's Luke Donald, supplanted by McIlroy atop the world rankings this week, headed another group of eight players on 70.
Stricker was tied for the lead through 12 holes but dropped three shots in his last six holes, finishing with back-to-back bogeys at 17 and 18.
"The course is playable. You can see it in the scores," Stricker said. "It's still playable, whether we have this kind of wind or not. So it's manageable out there, and you just have to play hard and play well."
Sergio Garcia showed just how wrong things could go. He was one shot off the lead through 12 holes but suffered as he failed to find a fairway the rest of the way. Five bogeys and a triple-bogey seven at 18 -- where he hit two shots into the water -- saw him post a 75.
Dufner bogeyed 18, but fortunately for him that was his ninth hole of the day.
He was able to capitalize on the holes playing downwind coming home.
"A lot easier to finish on nine than 18," Dufner said.
Source: AFP Global Edition