(CNN) -- Tiger Woods trailed the leaders in the WGC-CA Championship at Doral in his first appearance in a strokeplay event since winning last year's U.S. Open.
Woods splashes out of a bunker on the 13th on the way to a one-under 71.
The world number one finished in red figures with a one-under-par 71 in Florida, but some way off the pace set by early clubhouse leaders Jeev Milkha Singh of India, South Africa's Retief Goosen, Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand and Phil Mickelson, who carded 65s.
Woods, beaten in the second round of his competitive comeback a fortnight ago in a matchplay tournament in Arizona, birdied his third hole -- the par-five 12th -- but then bogeyed the next to set the tone for his day.
The 14-time major winner was back on track at his sixth hole of the round when he struck his tee shot at the par-three, 172-yard 15th to within two feet of the hole, sinking the putt for birdie and going out in 35.
A third birdie of the round followed at his 10th hole, before a bogey at the fourth, his 13th left him at one-under-par, a position he held until the end of the round.
"I was just a touch off, either driving the ball just through the fairways or not hitting it close enough or lipping out," Woods said after his round.
"Just one of those days."
The 33-year-old has returned to high expectations after the knee surgery which brought his 2008 season to a premature close following his triumph at Torrey Pines, where he beat Rocco Mediate in a playoff despite being severely handicapped by the injury.
The world's richest sportsman has had to slightly remodel his swing following the surgery and has admitted he is enjoying playing pain free.
But after beating Brendan Jones in the first round of the WGC-Accenture tournament he went out to South African journeyman Tim Clark to suggest he will need time to get back to his best.
After his long layoff, Woods is also in danger of losing his top ranking to Spain's Sergio Garcia, who is also playing at Doral.
Garcia needs to win the tournament with Woods finishing lower than 27th for him to assume the No.1 spot.
Woods will be hoping to improve his fortunes as he builds up to his first major test of the season in the U.S. Masters at Augusta from April 9 as he bids to close the gap on the all-time record of 18 majors by Jack Nicklaus.
Defending champion Geoff Ogilvy, winner of the WGC-Accenture event and also the season-opening Mercedes Championship, made a poor start with a one-over 73 on a day of generally low-scoring in the 81-strong elite field.