Adam Scott, Jason Dufner share lead

Updated: March 9, 2012, 1:30 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

DORAL, Fla. -- A round that began spectacularly with a near hole-out for double eagle turned rather ordinary for Tiger Woods on Thursday during the opening round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Woods could manage only an even-par 72 to trail leaders Adam Scott and Jason Dufner by six shots.

It wasn't a great day for new No. 1 Rory McIlroy or Phil Mickelson, either. McIlroy shot 73, the first time he's been over par this year in four stroke-play events. Mickelson shot 72 in his first round after a two-week break.

Scott, the Aussie who found himself unwittingly at the center of headlines last year because his caddie, Steve Williams, used to work for Woods, is playing just his third tournament of the year. It was just his sixth round of official golf after playing in the Northern Trust Open and then getting bounced from the WGC-Accenture Match Play after just one day.

Nonetheless, he shot 6-under-par 66 on a windy day at the TPC Blue Monster at Doral. He was tied with Dufner, who lost to Keegan Bradley in a playoff at the PGA Championship.

[+] EnlargeJason Dufner
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesJason Dufner, above, is tied atop the Cadillac Championship leaderboard with Adam Scott.

"This is the time of year when you want to start putting the numbers on the board," said Scott, who had his tonsils removed in December and didn't play his first tournament of the year until three weeks ago. "I've left my little run a little late but it seems to be working out."

Woods came in seemingly riding the momentum of his 8-under-par 62 on Sunday to finish second to Mclroy at the Honda Classic.

But he warned on Wednesday that it's a new week of golf, although Woods bombed a drive on the par-5 first hole and hit a pitching wedge from 172 yards to 2 feet for an easy eagle -- his third consecutive eagle on a par-5 dating to Sunday.

But after missing a 15-footer for birdie at the second hole, Woods had a lackluster round. He made back-to-back bogeys at the fourth and fifth holes, as well as at the ninth. He finished with one eagle and two birdies, all on par-5s, and had four bogeys, including one at the last hole.

"It was just a difficult day," Woods said. "The wind was blowing putts around, and it made for a very challenging round. You could handle the par-5s today and I'm sure the guys who shot some good scores played the par-5s well."

The second World Golf Championship event of the year, which features all 50 of the top players in the world, benefited from a great deal of buzz after the game's stars rose in recent weeks.

Mickelson rallied to win at Pebble Beach by shooting a final-round 64, then lost in a playoff the following week to Bill Haas, with Bradley also falling in the playoff. McIlroy then defeated Lee Westwood in the semifinals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play before falling to Hunter Mahan in the final.

Then last week McIlroy held off Woods at the Honda to win for the fifth time as a pro and move to No. 1 in the world.

[+] EnlargeTiger Woods
David Cannon/Getty ImagesTiger Woods shot an even-par 72 in the first round of the Cadillac Championship Wednesday.

"To be honest I felt a little flat out there," McIlroy said. "I don't know, I shouldn't, it's a World Golf Championship, but just felt a little flat out there. 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."

McIlroy has not been out of the top five this year, and has only been out of the top five once going back to the PGA Championship in August. After finishing second to Mahan at the Match Play two weeks ago, he won the Honda Classic by two strokes over Woods.

After shooting a final-round 64 to win at Pebble Beach for his 40th PGA Tour title, Mickelson lost in a playoff the following week and then took a family vacation. Earlier this week, he visited Augusta National to prepare for next month's Masters.

"This has been typical for me when taking a few weeks off, the first six holes back, I seem to kind of fight it," said Mickelson, who skipped the Match Play and didn't play at Honda last week. "And I knew that, so I played very conservative. When I started to feel comfortable with the swing a little bit, I was able to attack and try to make a few birdies. But I was not sharp early on."

Woods started quickly, nearly holing his second shot at the first, then giving himself another 15-foot birdie look at the second that he missed.

But other than birdies at the par-5 eighth and 12th, he could not convert the rest of the day.

"I got off to a nice start, hit a lot of good shots, just made a couple make a couple mistakes with iron shots and cost me two shots in a row at 4 and 4," Woods said. "I played some solid golf after that but just couldn't quite make enough birdies."

McIlroy was grouped with No. 2 Luke Donald and No. 3 Westwood. Either could overtake him for No. 1 in the world this week. Donald needs to finish at least in the top four while Westwood would have to win, depending on how McIlroy fares. Donald could get there with a victory. Donld shot 70 and is tied for 13th place. Westwood shot 76 and is tied for 64th.

Sergio Garcia had a strange round, shooting 31 on the front nine to pull within a shot of the lead, then followed it with a 44 on the back that included six bogeys and a triple bogey. He shot 75.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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