Rory McIlroy birdied the last two holes for a 7-under 63 and a one-shot lead over Russell Henley on Thursday at the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
It was big improvement from the last official round he played on PGA National. McIlroy was 7 over through eight holes last year when he became so frustrated with mounting expectations and a slumping game that he walked off the course in the middle of the second round.
"It's not something I really thought about out there," he said. "Coming in this week, I knew I was playing well and I just wanted to try and get off to a good start. ... Regardless of what happened last year, it's always nice to shoot a round like this."
Tiger Woods, in his first tournament in a month, couldn't make a birdie putt early and had to scramble for pars late in his round. A birdie on the last hole gave him a 1-over 71, leaving him eight shots behind.
"I hit it good starting out, hit it kind of scrappy in the middle and then hit it good at the end," he said. "But it was just one or the other. I either hit it good and missed the putt, and then scrap around and make a putt."
Phil Mickelson, playing PGA National for the first time since he was an amateur, had two birdies and a double bogey for a 70.
Past champion Rory Sabbatini, William McGirt and Jamie Donaldson were at 65.
Zach Johnson was four shots behind and thrilled about his 67. He hit two shots into the water on his way to a quadruple-bogey 8 on his second hole of the tournament.
"It was a day where it could have gone the other way -- quick," Johnson said.
McIlroy put last year behind him, though it was hard to ignore the turnaround. He was the defending champion and No. 1 in the world last year, newly signed to a big Nike contract and struggling to break par. Now he is playing well. He is adjusted to his equipment. He's engaged to tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, who followed him around the golf course.
"I'm in a great place," he said. "I couldn't be happier."
LPGA: Karrie Webb slipped up several weeks ago at the Australian Ladies Masters when she signed an incorrect scorecard and was disqualified. For a moment at the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore, she thought she had made a similar mistake.
After shooting a 6-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead, Webb feared she may have forgotten to sign her scorecard. She rushed back into the scoring tent only to find her scorecard was just fine.
"I've just had trouble getting out of the scorer tent since then," she said about her mistake in Australia. "I walked out (today) and couldn't remember if I signed my card, which it would have been too late anyway."
Pleasanton native Paula Creamer and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second at 67, a shot ahead of Angela Stanford and Teresa Lu.
"My main goal is just to be very consistent this year and a win happens by itself, you don't have to force any of that," said Creamer, who hasn't won on tour since the 2010 Women's U.S. Open.
Michelle Wie shot a 73.