Tiger Woods' first round of tournament golf in 236 days showed plenty of promise before a wayward drive with four holes to go led to a 3-over-par 75 in the first round of the Hero World Challenge on Thursday.
Woods, who is competing for the first time since withdrawing in the third round of the Masters in May, is the tournament host and five-time winner of this week's event in the Bahamas. Playing with good friend Justin Thomas in the 20-player invitational field, Woods carded four birdies and five bogeys in the first round.
He reached 1 under on four occasions, including with an up-and-down birdie on the 14th hole. However, he pulled his ensuing drive left on the par-5 15th.
Woods' ball came to rest under a bush and rather than taking an unplayable lie, he tried to advance it. The ball rolled out a couple of feet and he was forced to play backward into the fairway.
Woods failed to get up-and-down for par on the 16th, then three-putted the 17th for consecutive bogeys that dropped him to 3 over.
"I was rusty, I didn't have my feels and conditions were tough early," he told the Golf Channel shortly after walking off the 18th green with a par. "I kind of hung through there, and I did not finish off my round when I needed to. Consequently, it kind of went sideways at the end."
Woods is eight shots off the lead held by Brian Harman and Tony Finau, who each shot 5-under 67 on Thursday. Jordan Spieth is another shot back at 4 under thanks to two eagles. Two-time defending champion Viktor Hovland struggled to a 1-over 73 on Thursday.
Woods underwent surgery in the spring for plantar fasciitis and said Tuesday he felt prepared for the rigors of walking all four rounds in the tournament.
Relatable. pic.twitter.com/K8JqO39R8W— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) November 30, 2023
He is ahead of only reigning U.S. Open champion Wynham Clark (76) and Will Zalatoris (81), who is making his own return from an injury that has sidelined him for 251 days. Woods hit 10 of 18 greens in regulation and was able to scramble for par on only three of eight occasions. He also needed 30 putts to get through the round.
"The middle part of my round it was just a lack of commitment, and it kind of carried over into some of the final holes," he said. "Didn't commit to some of the shots. I was kind of squirrelly over whether I should hit this shot at this height, this trajectory ... the wind's puffing up, it's not, it's laying down. All the things that you normally take for granted with feels and adjustments, I had a lack of commitment on a number of different shots."
Woods walked with a slight limp, but said he's looking forward to improving with Friday's second round.
"I'm a little bit sore, that's for sure," he said. "We've got some stuff to do tonight to get ready for tomorrow. And then we head back into the gym and get after it tomorrow, and hopefully post a better number."
Field Level Media