Woods shoots 69 in Australia

Tiger Woods prepares to putt at the sixteen green during the first round of the Australian Masters...

Tiger Woods prepares to putt at the sixteen green during the first round of the Australian Masters near Melbourne on Thursday. (REUTERS/Daniel Munoz)

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, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

CHELTENHAM, Australia -- Tiger Woods overcame an early bogey and shot a two-under 69 Thursday in the first round of the JBWere Masters.

The defending champion trailed co-leaders Adam Bland, Alistair Presnell and Daniel Gaunt of Australia by four shots after hitting 16 of 18 greens in regulation in a round that was partly undone by ineffective putting.

"It was probably the highest score I could have shot today," said Woods, who took 33 putts on the Victoria Golf Club greens.

Bland shot a bogey-free six-under 65, while Presnell collected an eagle, five birdies and a bogey to join him in the early lead. Gaunt had seven birdies and a bogey playing in a late tee time.

They shared a two-shot lead over a large group at 67.

Woods won last year's JBWere Masters by two shots, punctuating his first trip to Australia in 11 years with his seventh victory of 2009 -- the first six coming on the PGA Tour.

What a difference a year makes.

Less than two weeks after that win, Woods was in a post-Thanksgiving car accident that touched off revelations of his extra-marital affairs.

His personal life in a tailspin for much of the time since then, Woods hasn't hoisted another trophy. He lost his No. 1 ranking to Lee Westwood last week.

By finishing tied for sixth place at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai last Sunday, Woods completed the first winless season of his career on the PGA Tour.

On Monday, he finished last in a four-man skins game in Thailand, winning just one of the 18 holes against Camilo Villegas, Paul Casey and Thongchai Jaidee.

But Woods looked forward to his title defense at the PGA of Australia event and he was able to shake off an early bogey at No. 12, his third hole. He played the opening nine at even-par after making two-putt birdie at the par- five 17th.

Woods chipped to about eight feet for a birdie at No. 1 and knocked his tee shot at the par-three No. 4 to about seven feet, curling in the birdie putt to get to two-under.

He parred out for his 69, avoiding a closing bogey at No. 9 by holing an eight-foot putt.

"If I make a few putts, then all of a sudden I'm four-, five-, six-under par," said Woods. "I got to be a little more committed to hitting putts harder tomorrow."

Also in the field are Sergio Garcia (73) and Villegas (71) as well as Australian stars Stuart Appleby (71) and Geoff Ogilvy (72).


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