Tiger opens with bogey-free 65

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The putts that failed to fall three weeks ago at the Masters were dropping for Tiger Woods during the opening round of the Quail Hollow Championship, leading to a 7-under-par 65 and the first-round lead.

It might be too simplistic, but the scowl that was on Woods' face as he left Augusta National in a tie for sixth was replaced by a big smile Thursday. His round required only 26 putts, with 11 coming over his final nine holes.

"I putted good today, I had the speed," Woods said. "At Augusta for some reason, I was hitting where I was looking but they weren't going in. Today I hit the putts on line and they went in."

His 65 gave Woods a 2-stroke lead over Phil Mickelson, Robert Allenby and Steve Marino after Thursday's play. Defending champion Anthony Kim finished 5 strokes off the pace at 2 under.

Woods is playing his first PGA Tour event since the Masters, where he finished 4 shots out of a playoff and near the bottom of the field in putting.

Although he hit only five of 14 fairways Thursday, Woods' misses were to the right side, in light rough. He hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation and shot his best round since a second-round 65 at the 2008 Buick Invitational.

It was also his best score at Quail Hollow -- where he won in 2007 -- and his seventh straight round under par at the course. His second-nine 30 still lags behind the 28 he shot during the second round of the 2007 Tour Championship; Tiger also has shot a 29 four times and a 30 on 23 previous occasions.

Playing with fellow major champions Jim Furyk and David Toms, Woods began his round on the 10th hole. He made a 15-footer for birdie at the par-4 12th, then parred his way around the back nine.

Woods then got on a roll on the front side. He hit a sand wedge to a foot for birdie at the first, rolled in a 12-footer at the third, pitched to 6 feet for another birdie at the par-5 fifth, then knocked a 5-iron on the green at the par-5 seventh, setting up a two-putt birdie from 30 feet.

He nearly drove the par-4 eighth, hit a poor pitch, but still made the 15-footer for birdie. He then rolled in another 15-footer at the ninth, giving him three consecutive birdies and four in his last five holes.

Woods said it took him a few days to get over the sting of his finish at Augusta, where he had pulled within a shot of the lead Sunday with a birdie at No. 16 before bogeying the final two holes.

"I wasn't all that pleased, especially finishing how I did, 17 and 18, especially when I thought I had a chance to post a number, and I didn't do it. That was frustrating," said Woods, who is playing in just his fifth tournament after returning earlier this year from knee surgery. "Yeah, it took a few days, and then once that was over, it was back to getting ready for this event, and the last week and a half was spent in good practice sessions."

For Mickelson, it was sweet to finish with a par.

From a fairway bunker on the par-4 18th, he wanted to lay up short of the green but pulled his shot while trying to avoid a creek that runs down the left side. The ball went under a large video board, and Mickelson took his free drop on a slope of grass above the cart path.

Then came a wedge that spun just enough to stop 2 feet away.

"It's nice to finish with a par," he said. "I ended up playing a good round."

Marino, who gave himself a chance at winning last week in New Orleans, and Allenby also opened with a 67. The group another shot back included two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, Hunter Mahan, Jeff Maggert and Lucas Glover.

Masters champion Angel Cabrera opened with a 70, along with defending champion Anthony Kim.

More than half of the 156-man field shot par or better at Quail Hollow, a course given a new look for this tournament. Instead of deep rough, there's a uniform cut of 2 inches that allowed players a chance to attack the greens.

Trouble was, the greens were firm and fast, making it difficult and at times dangerous to get it close to the hole.

"It's playable," Woods said. "The only thing is, it'll bait you into being more aggressive into some of these flags. You've just got to be careful on that."

Mickelson called it the best setup he has ever seen, no surprise coming from a guy who tends who spend a lot of time off the fairway.

"I think the fans are enjoying the recovery shot, which is the most exciting shot in golf," Mickelson said. "We're having a bunch of recovery shots -- at least I am -- from the trees and so forth. I think that makes for exciting golf."

Mickelson picked up a routine two-putt birdie on the fifth, then a deft chip from just short of the seventh green fell for eagle. But his momentum slowed, and he finished with seven straight pars.

Bob Harig is the golf writer for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.