But right at the top of the table was Adam Scott, who has with him Steve Williams, the caddie, who Woods sacked recently.
Australia's Scott, who birdied four of his last six holes, shot a stunning 62 -- one shot ahead of another Australian Jason Day.
Atwal opened with a bogey before he managed to steady himself with pars till he got a birdie on seventh. But a bogey on ninth saw him turn in one-over.
A birdie-spree with a hat-trick on the 10th, 11th and 12th made his card look excellent, before being put back by bogeys on 14th and 15th. He again bounced back with birdies at 16th and 17th for a day's work of 68.
The attention was on Woods, as he stepped out after a long time. He played his last full event at the Masters and then pulled out during the Players Championships after aggravating his injuries. He carded 68 yesterday to be tied at 18th.
Meanwhile, Nick Watney, winner at the World Golf Championships at Doral in 2011, carded 65 despite a bogey on 18th.
Australian youngster, Day, who is having a great season, went out early and carded an error-free 63, including a birdie on the last hole. That was the best in the morning on Thursday, before Scott brought in a 62.