(CNN) -- Tiger Woods leads the Chevron World Challenge in California after carding an impressive opening round of 65, as the world number two targets a return to the top of the rankings and his first tournament victory of 2010.
Woods' seven-under-par total included eight birdies and a solitary dropped shot, and saw him finish the day one shot clear of Northern Irish pair Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy at Thousand Oaks.
"It's not too often you can say I shot 65 and only made one putt, but that's kind of what I did today," Woods told a press conference.
"I only made one putt and it was on nine. The rest were either two-putts or kick-ins. It was a good ball-striking day."
Tournament host and four-time champion Woods produced one of his most consistent performances of a disappointing season -- the first of his professional career without a victory on the PGA Tour.
He hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation and dominated the par-fives, making birdie at all five and spurning four chances at eagle.
A rare mistake at the par-three 12th was saved by a deft pitch from thick rough, which lipped out to deny Woods an improbable birdie.
Only a wayward drive at the last denied Woods an eight-under-par 64 and a two-shot cushion.
"If you play well, it does give you a shot of confidence," Woods added.
"I've played well in this event. I've won it a few times, and I've gone on to get off to quick starts the following year.
"Late in the season, a lot of guys are either traveling, not practicing or playing all over the globe.
"But for me, if I can end the year on a high note, it does give you a shot of confidence going into your practice sessions. Because you know what you were doing was working."
Woods will have to hold off strong opposition to claim his first win since the Australian Masters in November 2009 -- and his first success since returning from a self-imposed five-month break from competition after revelations surrounding his private life.
U.S. Open champion McDowell and compatriot McIlroy both eagled the par-five 11th on their way to bold rounds of 66, and Woods is tailed by a host of proven champions in the elite 18-strong field -- all of whom rank inside the world's top 50.
Fellow U.S. Ryder Cup players Dustin Johnson and Stewart Cink are four shots off the lead after rounds of 69, while England's Luke Donald, who won the event in 2005, opened with a two-under-par 70 for share of sixth, where he was joined by Camilo Villegas.
Ian Poulter shot a level-par 72 to stand tied for eighth, alongside defending champion and FedExCup winner Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Nick Watney, Hunter Mahan and Sean O'Hair.
While the Chevron World Challenge is not an official PGA Tour event, it does carry ranking points -- and, with a victory, Woods could reclaim the world number one spot from Lee Westwood, providing Westwood finishes outside the top two at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa.
However, that is looking unlikely as the Englishman carded a second round eight-under-par 64 to lead the Sun City event by three strokes from compatriot Ross Fisher.