Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship.
"I hit five wood into the green and I knew it was good so I started walking after it". "I hammered that drive up the left side", Woods said.
Fans could not believe what they'd just witnessed.
Woods has not won upon his return but his ball-striking and putting were both pure today, with four birdies and the eagle, emphasised by a gorgeous five wood approach to the 18.
But the 42-year-old fought back with two front-nine birdies.
Finau and Thomas are level with McIlroy at one shot off Rose, who is tied third with American Gary Woodland, while Johnson is two strokes further back in the 30-man field.
"I hit so many quality shots all day, whether it was tee-to-green or putts", Woods said.
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"Overall, I felt in control today. The only hard part was getting my speed on the greens".
He then birdied the 12th and downhill 14th holes ahead of the eagle on 18 in a round that included just 28 putts. But Woods isn't chasing second-place finishes.
What a story it would be if his first win for five years, and the 80th on the PGA Tour in his incredible career, happened at this event, so close to the biennial dust-up in Versailles.
"But to have added a couple and to have earned my way into Akron, those are some things that, when I look at this year more, I've exceeded a lot of my expectations and goals because so much of it was an unknown".
Jason Day leads the three-man Australian contingent and sits at two-under the card courtesy of a solid 68.
Fellow Queenslander Cameron Smith carded an even-par 70, while Marc Leishman is three over after he signed for a 73.
Woods had begun his round with a bogey but soon regrouped with birdies at the fifth and sixth holes on a course where he claimed the FedEx Cup championship trophy in 2007 and 2009.