Playing a competitive round for the first time in 301 days, Tiger Woods opened with a three-under 69 on Thursday at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. He hit some big drives (well over 300 yards) through the breeze and made some long putts. While he is nowhere near the player he was a decade ago, he appears to be healthy and back on track to being competitive on the PGA TOUR. He didn’t grimace after swings or gingerly bend down to pick up his ball. He joked with playing partner Justin Thomas on the tee box but showed that signature “Tiger” stare a few times when he made birdie.
Tiger is currently three behind leader Tommy Fleetwood (66).
“It was not only nice to get the first round out of the way, but also I’m only three shots out of the lead,” said Woods, who hit seven fairways, 12 greens and needed 28 putts. “So to be able to put myself there after not playing for — is it 10 months or so? — in the neighborhood of that, it was nice to feel the adrenaline out there.”
Let’s not read too much into Woods’s first round, tempting as it may be. After a fusion spinal surgery, 10 months off and precious few competitive reps over the last three years, he still has a long way to go.
One start, in the grand scheme of things, means very little…but it’s a good start. There was a lot to like about his return.
After a warm welcome on the 1st tee, Woods blistered a drive up the left side of the fairway, some 30 yards past Thomas’s tee shot. He knocked his approach to 15 feet then just missed his birdie attempt. After a par on the 2nd hole, he hit a 2-iron 265 yards to reach the green in two on the par-5 3rd. In vintage Tiger fashion he stared and walked after his approach. Two putts from 50 feet led to his first birdie.
“I know he’s a grinder from watching,” said Thomas, who had never played a round on Tour with Woods until today and also shot 69. “I knew he was a great putter from the amount of putts I’ve seen him make on TV in the past. He’s driving the ball really well, which he was driving it well at home. He didn’t finish off very well driving it, but like I said, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for what I was expecting.”
So the comeback has begun. Let’s hope for everyone’s sake, including the game of golf itself that Tiger’s finally back and will be able to play competitive golf for years to come. Round 2 begins for Tiger on Friday at 11:43 am. Tiger is paired with Henrik Stenson.