Woods has started just two events in 2015, shooting a career-worst score of 82 to miss the cut in the Waste Management Phoenix Open and withdrawing through injury after just 11 holes of the Farmers Insurance Open on February 5.
That led to the 14-time major winner taking a break from competition to work on his game, during which time he dropped outside the world’s top 100 for the first time since September 1996, a slide which continued on Monday as he fell from 104th to 111th.
Woods has not won a major since the 2008 US Open and the last of his four Masters wins was a decade ago, with the 39-year-old only confirming on Friday that he would compete at Augusta.
However, after showing no sign of the chipping “yips” which blighted his performance in Phoenix on the range, Woods produced some vintage shots as he completed the front nine alongside long-time friend Mark O’Meara before playing the 10th and 18th alone.
“I felt good. It was nice to get out here,” said Woods, who was two under after four holes despite a wayward drive on the first and three-putting the par-five second for a par.
“Chipping is fine. I wanted to test out some wedges out here. That was why I was chipping a little bit more. It came down to a couple of different bounce settings because it’s different from Florida. We figured the right one out.
“It’s been a process. But I’m on the good side now. It’s progression. I felt like I had to get my game into a spot where I could compete to win a golf tournament and it’s finally there.”
O’Meara, who won the Masters and Open in 1998, said: “The thing about the kid is that you can never underestimate Tiger Woods. I’m a huge fan, a friend and I care about him.
“It was good to be out there with him. I saw some good signs. His pitching looks a lot better.
“There’s a lot of pressure on him but there is no reason why he should not have a good week this week.
“There are not many people that have played the game of golf like he has. The game of golf is better because of Tiger Woods.
“He is in a good place and I think he is fired up about it. He will be nervous on Thursday but I think he will be fine. He hit a couple of shots that were a little off but a lot of quality shots.”