Tiger Woods didn't have his best stuff on Wednesday at Austin Country Club, but he didn't need to. Such is the beauty of match play.
Woods got his WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play off to a winning start, beating 22-year-old Aaron Wise 3 and 1, but it wasn't pretty.
The match started off shakily for both players, as Woods actually won the first hole with a bogey thanks to a Wise double. Woods was (unoficially) two over par through 4 yet found himself 2 up on the match. Things improved from there, as the players tied both 5 and 6 with birdies before Woods dropped a 33-footer for par on 7.
Wise, the reigning PGA Tour rookie of the year, would then win 8, 9 and 10 to even the match at the turn.
The momentum shifted completely at the par-3 11th, where Wise found the green before Woods missed in a terrible spot left of the hole. Woods' second shot rolled well past the hole, leaving 11 feet for par, which he converted. Wise then missed from inside six feet—on a hole where Woods looked likely to fall 2 down, he evened the match.
Woods won both 13 and 15 with pars to seize control, and a par at the par-3 17th was good enough to seal the deal. He was roughly even par on his ball for the day.
Woods is a three-time champion of the WGC match play event, but this is his first start in it since the tournament switched from a traditional, 64-man single-elimination bracket to its current format: 16 groups of four players, with the winner of each group after round robin advancing to a 16-person knockout bracket.
Woods, the tournament's 12th seed, will face Brandt Snedeker on Wednesday and Patrick Cantlay on Friday. The round of 16 and quarterfinals will be on Saturday, with the semifinal and final match coming on Sunday. That means the winner this week will play seven rounds over five days.
This is Woods' final start before the Masters, which begins April 11.