Woods was not happy with his putting despite taking a one-shot lead
Tiger Woods is in position to end a bad year on a triumphant note after taking the lead after round one of the Chevron World Challenge at Thousand Oaks.
The former world number one is seeking his first victory of the year in his own tournament after becoming engulfed in personal strife at the end of 2009.
Woods's seven-under-par 65 at Sherwood Country Club gave him a one-shot lead despite a final-hole bogey.
In an elite field of 18, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell were a shot behind.
Woods, who was recording his fourth round of 65 in an otherwise indifferent year, has lost his number one ranking to England's Lee Westwood, but remains second in the world.
"I played good today," said Woods after recording birdies on each of the five par-fives. "I really striped it. I hit a lot of good shots.
"It's not too often I can say I shot 65 and only made one putt, but that's kind of what I did today," he added after totalling 32 putts on smooth-running greens.
"I only made one putt and it was on the ninth. The rest were either two putts or kick-ins. It was a good ball-striking day."
Woods, 34, took a five-month break from the game going into this season in an ultimately unsuccessful bid to repair his marriage and embarked on the fourth swing change of his career in August.
Asked if he was back to his best after struggles on and off the course, Woods replied: "It's a process. I was putting together streaks of holes - two, three, four, five holes of this - and then I'd lose it for a little bit.
"I needed to get to a full round and then eventually a full tournament. Today was a full round, so that's a good start."
Northern Irish pair McDowell and McIlroy had a three-shot cushion ahead of Ryder Cup adversaries Dustin Johnson and Stewart Cink.
The only other players below par were England's Luke Donald (-2) and Colombia's Camilo Villegas, who matched Donald's round of 70.