ORLANDO: Tiger Woods made a woeful start to his latest injury comeback on Thursday (Dec 4), firing a five-over par 77 to stand last after round one of the 18-player Hero World Challenge.
The former world number one ended a four-month competitive layoff with four bogeys, one birdie and a double bogey at Isleworth, a 7,354-yard layout where Woods once fired a 59 in a practice round with Mark O’Meara.
Woods, who had not played in an event since the PGA Championship in August while recovering from a back injury, was five-over after eight holes and played the inward nine at par but showed he still has plenty of work remaining to recapture the form that brought him 14 major titles, four shy of Jack Nicklaus’ all-time record.
“It was just one of those days where nothing goes your way,” Woods said. “I feel like I didn’t hit it that poorly.” Woods, who turns 39 on December 30, has not won a major title since the 2008 US Open. He must become the first player to win four majors beyond his 39th birthday to match Nicklaus.
Woods stood 11 strokes behind 21-year-old leader Jordan Spieth, who opened with a 66 after winning the Australian Open last week. He sank a 20-foot par putt at 18 to stay one in front of fellow Americans Rickie Fowler, Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.
“It would have been tough to finish with bogey,” said Spieth, who won a college event at Isleworth. “It was nice to close that one out.” While Woods struck the ball with speed and power and showed no sign of the back pain that sidelined him most of the year, he was erratic off the tee at the start, sending his first three drives well left.
“I have zero pain,” Woods said. Haven’t said that in a long time. It’s nice to be able to launch it again.” Woods botched four chip shots, a sign his once-mighty short game needs more work than he has managed in the month since he resumed hitting golf shots.
“My short game was awful,” Woods said. “I didn’t make anything. It certainly is surprising I could hit chips that poorly. I flubbed them. I hit some terrible chips.”
One round will not make or break a comeback, but by hitting only 9-of-14 fairways and 11-of-18 greens in regulation, Woods indicated any return to form will be a long and difficult journey. “I made too many mistakes,” Woods said.
WOODS OUT OF BOUNDS TO START
Woods sent his first tee shot since Aug 8 out of bounds to the left off the first tee on his way to a bogey. He missed a 15-foot par putt at the par-3 second after another poor tee shot and rescued par at the par-5 third.
“I missed it on the wrong side a few times on the front nine,” Woods said. Woods blasted a drive into a bunker at the par-5 seventh and took two shots to escape on his way to a bogey.
At the eighth, Woods went well left off the tee near a fence at a house adjacent to the course. His second shot struck a tree and Woods would blast his approach over the green and stub a chip on the way to a double bogey.
Woods made his lone birdie at the 12th, lipping out on his approach, but his second shot at the par-5 13th rolled down a slope and off the green. After one chip rolled back to him and another plopped only a few feet away, his third try stopped inches from the cup for a tap-in bogey.
“I hit two of the best shots I can hit on 13 and I walked away with a six,” Woods said. At the par-5 17th, Woods missed the green in two, chunked another chip, then chipped to the far edge of the green and made a 10-foot comeback par putt to avoid his third bogey of the day on a par-5 hole. Woods closed with a par to end his worst round in 14 Challenge starts.