Tiger Woods has completed the first round of the Hero World Challenge, carding a 3-over 75.
Read on to recap all the action at Albany Golf Club as Woods teed it up for the first time in competition since April (Note: All times in ET).
Hole 18 (par 4, 459 yards): Woods bending and flexing his right leg as he stands on the 18th tee, then finds the short grass. He’ll end the day with 6 of 13 fairways hit, which has had him playing defense for much of the round, particularly on the back nine.
Although we didn’t really see it for the first three hours or so, Tiger’s fourth hour of golf has featured a lot of tired looking shots. He’ll have to remind himself it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and also that this was not a particularly easy day for scoring.
After a 310-yard drive, Tiger knocks his second to around 25 feet on 18. All told, he’ll hit only 10 greens today, but his gait walking to the green is just as good as it was at the start of the round. Birdie try misses just a shade right, and he taps in for a 3-over 75.
Tiger and Thomas hug it out on 18, all smiles. Pretty good 2-under 70 for Thomas considering he was 3 over through four. The line for Woods was about as scratchy as one might have predicted: 4 birdies, 5 bogeys, 1 double, 8 pars, 3-over 75. Still smiling though. Still seems to be moving nicely. He’ll give it another go Friday. See you then!
3-over round of 75
6/13 fairways hit; 10/18 greens in regulation
Hole 17 (par 3, 191 yards): Not a great tee shot by Tiger on 17, a 7-iron from 191 that needed to go about 15 more yards. Still, it hit the green. Birdie try from nearly 50 feet rolls nearly 6 feet past the hole, and misses the comebacker left edge. Yet another bogey as he goes to 3 over on the day, 4 over for his last three holes.
A quick reality check: Although Tiger hasn’t looked very good the last 40 minutes, there’s so much reason for optimism. His speed is good, and he’s shown flashes of brilliance with his short game. Most importantly, his walk still looks good nearly four hours into his round. He can figure out the rest of it.
3-over through 17
5/12 fairways hit; 9/17 greens in regulation
Hole 16 (par 4, 476 yards): Tiger liked his tee shot at the par-4 16th, moving quickly to pick up the tee, but it sailed right on him and wound up in the fairway bunker. He’ll have 200 yards for his second. Almost all of his misses today have been to the right, with the exception of the doozy off the 15th tee.
Down low in the bunker, Tiger makes good contact but misses another green, this one right. He’ll need to execute a tricky up-and-down as this round threatens to get away from him.
Woods catches his pitch shot heavy on 16 and will now need to convert from just over 20 feet to save par. His ability to finish off a round was always going to be in question after such a long layoff, and he looks to be playing tired right now.
With another bogey, his par effort sliding by on the low side, Tiger has now gone double-bogey, bogey on the last two holes and is 2-over par with two holes remaining. Although he’s hit plenty of solid shots today, he won’t be happy with the last half hour or so.
2-over through 16
5/12 fairways hit; 8/16 greens in regulation
Hole 15 (par 5, 554 yards): Oops. A wild tee shot on 15 by Tiger, and the ball hooks left into the native area. So far the only really bad blow-up hole in this group has been by Thomas, who tripled the fourth, but Tiger may have to get lucky with his lie here on 15. Can’t tell whether or not he’s in a bush.
Woods has issues on 15, where a wayward-left tee shot has come to rest under the edge of a large clump of bushes. He tries to poke it out but advances it only about a foot. Now with his third considers going lefty, but instead pitches out backward, back into the fairway. Could be headed for a big number.
The saving grace for Woods is that 15 is a par 5, so if he can somehow get it up around the green and then get up and down, he’ll salvage a bogey. His 3-wood fourth shot comes to rest short and right of the green.
So-so pitch for Woods on 15, leaving himself a bogey putt of about 12 feet. This has been his first truly bad hole, 3 1/2 hours into the round. Tugs his bogey putt slightly to the left, and taps in for double-bogey 7 to go from 1 under to 1 over.
1-over through 15
5/11 fairways hit; 8/15 greens in regulation
Hole 14 (par 4, 310 yards): Gives it a run at the driveable, par-4 14th hole but his 297-yard tee shot takes an unkind first bounce off steep bank right of the green, leaving him a pitch shot from 84 1/2 feet.
Sporty pitch shot from Tiger on 14, leaving himself only 3 feet for birdie.
Woods rolls in his shorty for another birdie at the short par-4 14th hole, going back to 1 under on the day.
He and Thomas have ham-and-egged it fairly well and are 5-under, best ball.
1-under through 14
5/10 fairways hit; 8/14 greens in regulation
Hole 13 (par 4, 514 yards): No room for a mediocre tee shot at the 514-yard, par-4 13th hole, and Tiger stripes it 334 yards just barely into the left rough.
Good, aggressive pass at the ball by Tiger, who hits the green on 13, leaving himself about 20 feet for birdie. In case you’re wondering about his first start in ’24, he hosts The Genesis Invitational at Riviera, and while it’s a Signature Event, there are four sponsor exemptions. Guessing he’ll have the inside track on getting one.
We are now at the three-hour mark for Tiger’s round, which brings up an issue he never had in his prime: stamina. His ability to finish off rounds will be an open question in these first few appearances back.
Woods’ birdie try from just outside 15 feet never really has a chance, and he makes the comebacker for a par at 13 to remain even par on the tournament, five behind Finau and Harman. Woods is tied with playing partner Thomas and Sepp Straka. Five players are over par.
Even through 13
4/9 fairways hit; 7/13 greens in regulation
Hole 12 (par 3, 187 yards): Thomas is heating up with three straight birdies. Woods, meanwhile, hits a loose tee shot at the par-3 12th and watches as it misses well right of the green.
From the native area, Tiger chokes down and catches the ball cleanly, the ball coming to rest 11 feet, 3 inches away for par. Nifty shot from a tough location.
Tiger’s par try misses left; bogey on 12 knocks him back to even par on the round.
Even through 12
4/8 fairways hit; 6/12 greens in regulation
Hole 11 (par 5, 587 yards): Another par-5 opportunity for Woods on 11, but he doesn’t like the tee shot, giving it the old one-handed follow-through as his ball slices into the right rough.
Woods has not been quite as accurate with the driver today as he was in the pro-am Wednesday, and he’s left himself with 314 yards remaining for his second shot on 11. Uses an iron for his second shot from a sidehill lie in fluffy grass, and finds the fairway again. He’ll have 146 yards remaining.
A ho-hum approach from Woods on 11 leaves him a birdie putt of nearly 50 feet.
Woods finds the cup from way downtown at the par-5 11th, his birdie from just under 50 feet going in with some pace and putting him 1 under for the day.
Tee sheet at the Hero is all about the buddy system, and as soon as Woods committed to the tournament there was never any doubt he’d play with Thomas. The two were cutting it up and laughing as they walked to the 11th green, and Woods’ tight-lipped smile after he birdied from 48 feet, 1 inch, said he knew he’d gotten a little lucky.
From Paul Hodowanic on the ground, as Thomas walked towards the hole, he shook his head in a bit of disbelief. After he makes his short birdie putt, JT walks off the green and says “that felt 5 feet longer after somebody’s putt.”
1-under through 11
4/8 fairways hit; 6/11 greens in regulation
Hole 10 (par 4, 420 yards): Another fairway hit at the 10th hole, giving him four of seven on the day
Woods misses birdie effort and taps in for another par. Lefty Brian Harman is 6 under through 15 holes and has opened up a three-shot lead over Max Homa, a recent winner in South Africa, and Tony Finau. Woods is even, six back.
Meanwhile, Justin Thomas, who was a bit wayward off the tee on the front nine, has birdied his last two holes and is 1 over through 10. We’ll see if he can spark a little run from Tiger.
Even through 10
4/7 fairways hit; 5/10 greens in regulation
Hole 9 (par 5, 615 yards): Tiger tugs his tee shot at the par-5 ninth just a hair, and it’s enough to send his ball bouncing into a fairway bunker. A rare missed fairway, but this is a 615-yard hole, so it might have been three shots to get to the green anyway.
Tiger was the last player to go back to back (’06, ’07) at the Hero before Viktor Hovland the last two years. Hovland has just birdied his last two holes and is 1 under through six.
Although Ernie Els designed it, Tiger knows Albany too well to make any mental mistakes. A sensible layup second shot from the fairway bunker at the par-5 ninth. He’ll have 125 yards for his third, and should give himself a reasonable look at birdie.
Cameras zooming in on Tiger’s gait, which looks quite good. A bit of an unforced error on his approach at the ninth as he spins a wedge off the front of the green.
Pretty straightforward chip here for Tiger, who gave it a run but missed just a half a cup left and will have four feet remaining to save par at the par-5 ninth and shoot even on the front.
Woods pours it in the heart from 4 feet and saves par at the ninth. Gives him an even-par 36 in his first nine holes since undergoing ankle surgery in April.
Halfway through his first competitive round in seven months, Woods at even par is trailing 10 players, tied with four players, and beating five players.
Even through 9
3/6 fairways hit; 4/9 greens in regulation
Hole 8 (par 3, 193 yards): Woods is even par, four off the lead (Brian Harman), and hits the green at the par-3 8th, leaving himself about 30 feet for birdie. His pal Rob McNamara is on the bag for this week only; who winds up with his bag in ’24?
All things considered, this has been an auspicious beginning for Woods, who from 33 feet at the eighth misses just a hair left. He’ll tap in for another par to stay even for the round. Pretty strong for a guy who hasn’t done this in a while.
We were talking in the office yesterday about Woods’ record made-cuts streak of 142, and how he brings the fight to the course every single time. We’re really seeing that in this late stage of his career; so much grind, so much mental toughness.
Even through 8
3/5 fairways hit; 4/8 greens in regulation
Hole 7 (par 4, 359 yards): Tiger takes a mighty lash at the driveable par-4 seventh, but watches as his tee ball bounces into a bunker in front of the green, his first missed fairway. One thing to keep an eye on in this latest iteration of his career is uneven lies, which will present a special challenge.
Woods doing his best to stay loose. He and JT both took numerous practice swings before teeing off, more than they have at any other point in the round.
Nice flat lie from the bottom of the bunker in front of seven green, splashes out but ball barely makes it onto the putting surface before coming to rest up against the front collar.
Nifty chip with a wedge for Tiger’s third, leaving himself only 2 feet for par.
With a routine tap-in par, Woods is even par through seven holes. Considering Keegan Bradley and Wyndham Clark are 4 over, Thomas is 3 over, and Morikawa, Day, Scheffler and Burns are all also over par, that’s pretty solid.
Even through 7
3/5 fairways hit; 3/7 greens in regulation
Hole 6 (par 5, 563 yards): Woods sends his drive just long into the rough at the sixth hole.
Only one player in the 20-man field won an event in the FedExCup Fall, Collin Morikawa at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP. There are 13 who played in the recent Ryder Cup in Rome (nine Americans, four Europeans). And only one guy in the Bahamas spent more time as a junior golf caddie than on TOUR: Tiger.
There’s a stark difference between what Woods looks like playing in cold, wet weather (miserable) and what he looks like playing in the heat (like himself). He says he wants to play once a month or so, best case scenario, next year. Can he make his 2024 schedule entirely based on meteorological forecasts?
Although he had found the short grass at the par-5 sixth, Woods had to play a hook around a large bush for his second shot. His manufactured swing did not quite work out as planned, and his ball wound up in the right rough, about 110 yards remaining for his third.
Big delay as Scottie Scheffler in the group ahead is needing to take a drop. Thomas is off to a rough start, 3-over par through five, and is in a greenside bunker at the sixth.
After a long wait, Tiger leaves his 109-yard third on the front collar at the par-5 sixth. A bit of a missed opportunity there, but Scheffler’s troubles up ahead iced him.
A bit over-aggressive as Tiger birdie try from around 15 feet burns the right edge and rolls some 6 feet past the hole.
Woods pulls his 6-foot par try at the sixth, taps in for a deflating bogey and goes back to even. Strange sequence of events there and I have to believe the wait disrupted him.
Even through 6
3/4 fairways hit; 3/6 greens in regulation
Hole 5 (par 3, 177 yards): Tiger with a 6-iron from 177 at the par-3 fifth, finds the green, some 25 feet remaining for birdie.
Here’s Scheffler earlier this week, for more perspective on what we’re seeing: “I couldn’t imagine taking a year off and going to try to make the cut at the Masters. Getting back into competitive golf is something you can’t really simulate at home, it’s so much different. For him to be able to do it like he has been doing it for so many years is pretty miraculous.”
Rickie Fowler has the course record at Albany, a 61 in ’17. We won’t likely see anything close to that with the breeze today.
Through five holes, crowd remains as big as it was on the first tee, maybe even larger. They’re rewarded as Woods pours in another birdie putt to erase that bogey on four.
He’s back to 1 under.
1-under through 5
3/3 fairways hit; 3/5 greens in regulation
Hole 4 (par 4, 503 yards): Another fairway hit for Woods at the fourth, 317 yards. Ho-hum. Layoff? Yes. Subtalar fusion? Yes. None of it matters. However … hits his first truly loose shot of the day with his second, which gets away from him to the right. Not very good with a wedge. Will need to get up and down to save par.
Wind appears to be playing tricks on these guys, as Thomas (even through 3) also hits a poor second shot at the fourth with a wedge in his hands.
Tiger’s chip shot at the fourth appears to go off in his hands, as the ball shoots up the hill and onto the green but keeps going some 25 feet past the pin. He’ll have work to do to save par.
Par attempt at the fourth never scares the hole, and Woods bogeys to go back to even. Not an easy scoring day with the breeze; Scottie Scheffler is already 2 over through four.
Even through 4
3/3 fairways hit; 2/4 greens in regulation
Hole 3 (par 5, 555 yards): Another fairway hit with the driver at the third hole, and as McNamara puts Frank the headcover back on the big stick, Tiger sips from a bottled water. Lots of birdies out there already, with Finau, Harman and Glover leading at 2 under.
So far we’ve seen eight shots from Tiger with a scorecard and a pencil in hand, as he would say, and they’ve all been pretty good. I see nothing to refute his “absolutely” comment when asked earlier this week whether he could win again.
Will be interesting to monitor where Tiger hits it in relation to Thomas. Woods hit a good ball off the third tee but was a good 40 yards behind Thomas. Granted Thomas looked like he stepped on his ball with a bit of a pull that took the wind. Tiger meanwhile played the cut into the wind.
The other thing to keep an eye on today, in addition to Tiger’s gait, is his speed. Appears to be no problem on that front, as according to ShotLink he hit it 326 yards at the first hole. That left him just an easy sand wedge. He’s got 289 for his second at the third.
First birdie of the day comes as Woods had to manage his first few uneven lies. His second shot came up just short of the green but left him with a bit of an awkward stance just above a greenside bunker hitting his chip shot up the hill. The ball raced past the hole and nearly off the back edge. But the man certainly can putt. He drains another 15ft(ish) putt to get into red numbers.
Tiger has not played a shot that matters for seven months, and is now one off the lead. His golf knowledge is unmatched, any and all conditions, any length of layoff. Just knows how to get it around. Reminds me of that classic line from “Apollo 13” – “If they could get a washing machine to fly, my Jimmy could land it.”
1-under through 3
2/2 fairways hit; 2/3 greens in regulation
Hole 2 (par 3, 169 yards): Woods loses his tee shot right at the par-3 second hole; ball winds up in greenside bunker. The breeze is already taking effect out there. He’ll put his short game to the test early.
Woods with an indifferent bunker shot at the second hole, leaving himself over 10 feet for par. Back in the day you might have measured a Tiger round by how many times he pumped his fist, and whether or not he unleashed the big uppercut. Today I am watching how many times he wipes his brow; hot weather is his friend.
Woods walking well thus far and much better than he did during Wednesday’s early morning pro-am. Whether it’s the weather, the warmest we’ve had all week, or the extra time to receive treatment ahead of the round, Woods looks good. Not much of a hitch in his gait at all
Tiger converts for par at the second hole. Right in the jaws. Remains even par.
Even through 2
1/1 fairways hit; 1/2 greens in regulation
Hole 1 (par 4, 438 yards): Tiger with the honor, will hit first. Swings and quickly picks up the tee. Fairway hit. He’s off and away. JT hits in the rough.
Woods (’07, ’09) and Thomas (’17) are two of the five FedExCup champs in the 20-player field, two of the five PLAYERS winners in the field, and two of the four with multiple major championship victories.
Woods and Thomas also formed a pretty potent duo at the 2019 Presidents Cup, going 2-0.
Tiger didn’t leave himself much for his approach on one, just a sand wedge. Knocks it to just outside 10 feet as Thomas is forced to take a drop
Tiger birdie attempt from 15 feet or so melts over the left edge, so he’ll tap in for par. A nice, boring start. Fairway. Green. Two putts..
Even through 1
1/1 fairways hit; 1/1 greens in regulation
11:45 a.m.: Tiger leaves the range and walks toward the tee, and guess what? He seems to be walking well. The body is moving, no big limp like we’ve seen the last couple days.
According to Paul at Albany, Tiger missed just one fairway in his pro-am nine holes yesterday. That’s important, because stray shots at Albany wind up on a hardpan of crushed shells, which means the ball generally doesn’t stop until it winds up in a bush. It’s somewhat like Arizona desert golf in that regard.
Lots of handshakes and photographs on the first tee, with Tiger’s return to competitive action almost upon us. The limp in his gait is noticeable, but not bad. Wipes his brow. Reties his laces. Checks his yardage book. Lots of fans with their phones in the air. Here we go….
11:32 a.m.: Woods banging the driver out there on the range with about 20 minutes remaining before his tee time with Thomas. In Tiger’s favor today is that it’s a flat course, and the weather in the Bahamas is pleasantly warm, good to keep everything loose. Fred Couples, another guy with back issues, always used to like warm conditions. “The Big Cat is back,” Couples tweeted today. “Christmas comes early. Thank you Santa.”
Lots of low piercing wedges to various targets. Again a product of the wind.
Interesting that Luke Donald was named to reprise his role as European Ryder Cup Captain right after Tiger was asked about leading the U.S. Team and said there was too much other stuff going on right now to talk about it. Coincidence of timing or did one lead to the other?
With Tiger himself saying he wonders how he’ll do, the question of what he’ll shoot in the first round is a hot topic around the office. I’m going to say the wind being up helps him some, given his outsized ability to flight the ball. Finishing the round uninjured would be a victory; anything around 71 would be a bonus.
11:02 a.m.: Woods moves over to the short game area, hitting chips side by side with Justin Thomas. The two close friends are in their traditional first round pairing together. Thomas played alongside Tiger in his first round after returning from ankle surgery back home in Florida.
“Obviously, he’s never going to be as sharp as he wants given the amount of — that he’s gone through with his body and whatnot,” Thomas said, “but at the same time — I’m sure he said it earlier and he’s always going to say it — he’s not going to tee it up if he thinks he’s going to come out here and embarrass himself. He wants to play well.”
Woods starts hitting balls on the range at 11:15 a.m., around 37 minutes before his tee time. Breeze is apparent in riffling of his slacks and shirt. Big day for his longtime friend Rob McNamara, who is getting a rare start as Woods’ caddie.
A lot of the players have been asked about Tiger this week, as you’d expect. The most interesting comment, I thought, was by Will Zalatoris, who underwent a microdiscectomy with the same surgeon who had done the same operation on Woods.
WILL ZALATORIS: I was told early on that injuries and surgeries are almost as much mental as they are physical, and we all know that he’s one of the strongest mental people — strongest people mentally on the planet. Now having a better appreciation for it, like I said, it’s truly remarkable.
Woods has won the Hero five times, but always at Sherwood Country Club, earlier in his career, when he wasn’t so banged up (the tournament also had a one-year stint at Isleworth in Orlando). His record at Albany, played hurt pretty much every time: DNP ’15, 15th in ’16, T9 in ’17, 17th in ’18, 4th in ’19. He hasn’t played since.
Tiger hitting a lot of cut shots throughout the bag on the range. Seems like that will be his go-to shot, which makes sense given the limited mobility in his lower body. Expect the wind to play a factor. Woods has commented several times with caddie Rob McNamara about how the ball is reacting to the conditions.
Crowds on the range watching Tiger are bigger than any that have been around the first tee for guys getting their rounds going.
10:50 a.m.: Tiger arrives at the practice putting green. It’s been a very chill day so far. Tiger in a jovial mode, alongside the rest of the playing competitors. Could be an interesting weather day. Plenty of sun, but winds sustaining at 15 mph. Frequent gusts over 20 mph. Woods wearing black pants, black shoes, beige shirt and a black hat.
Tiger Woods making a comeback on the Bahamian shores should ring a bell. He’s done it before.
The Woods-hosted Hero World Challenge has served as the 82-time PGA TOUR winner’s defacto testing grounds as he’s recovered from myriad injuries. And it will do so again this week.
Woods will play his first PGA TOUR round Thursday since withdrawing during the third round of the Masters with plantar fasciitis. He’s spent the last seven months outside the limelight, recovering from his right ankle fusion surgery in April.
A 15-time major winner, Woods will turn 48 next month and has not played in the Hero – a tournament he’s won five times – since 2019.
Woods cut his 18-hole pro-am short on Wednesday, opting to play just the front nine at Albany Golf Club and conserve his energy. He has played in just five tournaments since his 2021 car accident and has completed a full 72 holes just twice.
“I’m excited to compete and play, and I’m just as curious as all of you are to see what happens because I haven’t done it in a while,” Woods added.
Source : PGA Tour