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A bush battle and too many bogeys: Assessing Tiger Woods’ latest comeback

It might not have been the comeback round that Tiger Woods wanted, but it was certainly an eventful day in Albany…

 

Did you set your alarms?

Not that I was asleep at 4.52 pm but I didn’t want to miss it, did I?

Tiger Woods’ first golf shot since the Masters was ripped down the 1st hole in the first round of the Hero World Challenge.

The small but compact crowd stood with their phones aloft as Woods resumed this stop-start stage of his career.

He reminded us of the good times on hole 3 with his first birdie of the day. A 28-footer for birdie on 5 showed his talent with the short stick hasn’t diminished.

Woods’ front-nine highlights were unfortunately surrounded by bogeys, but surely he’d have taken level-par on the front nine before this 20-man event began?

A big, wide smile followed his ball into the cup from 48 feet on hole 11. That’s what the crowds ventured to the Bahamas for. It shows the magic he is still capable of 27 years since his first PGA Tour win.

The 15-time major champion told us his game was rusty earlier in the week, and this showed off the tee as he missed more than half of the fairways in Albany.

His worst blow off the tee box came on 14 when he hooked his ball underneath a bush. This required a club-golfer stab that moved roughly two yards before he manoeuvred himself back to the fairway.

This double-bogey was complemented by his fourth and fifth bogeys of the round. Woods threatened the hole on 18 but settled for a par and a three-over 75.

But it was all smiles for the 47-year-old, his makeshift caddie Rob McNamara, his playing partner and friend Justin Thomas and his looper Jim “Bones” McKay.

What did Tiger have to say?

“I got off to a decent start,” he said. “I didn’t play the par 5s particularly well all day. I was telling Todd over there I had really a lack of commitment through most of the middle part of my round and finishing.

“I just didn’t quite commit to what I was doing and feeling. You take it for granted, I guess, when you’re playing all the time. OK, the wind, it’s coming up, move the ball back, you just kind of lean on it just a little bit, just flight it down a little bit, add a couple yards in.

“Instead of reacting to it, I was thinking about doing it. Then as I was thinking about it, should I do this or not, by then I’m pulling the trigger. I shouldn’t really pull the trigger. Hit a bad shot.

“I kept doing it time and time again. It was a lack of commitment to what I was doing and feeling. I’ve got to do a better job of it.

“I’m sore, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve got some work to do tonight. I was saying to Todd, tomorrow get back in the gym and activate and get ready for it. Hopefully, hit some better shots.

“And now I know mentally what I need to do better. I think that’s something that physically I knew I was going to be OK. Mentally, I was really rusty and made a lot of errors in the mind that normally I don’t make.”

Tiger Woods: Hero Challenge assessment

Outfit:

I didn’t start watching golf today. I know that Woods’ red showstopper will come out on Sunday, so I can cope with his tame selection of dull pink on Thursday.

A safe option, but too safe in my opinion. 5/10

Shoes:

This will be the last mention of Woods’ shoes this week, I promise. He wore a pair of FootJoy Premiere Series Wilcox in the Wednesday Pro-Am, and the black FootJoys were back out for the opening round.

Smart. 7/10

Short game:

You’d have to say Woods’ chipping and putting is as solid as any. When rebuilding your strength and feel after surgery, it is presumably chipping and putting that comes first on the practice ground.

Statistically, his scrambling and putting weren’t the best, but we’re dealing with a small sample size here. Some of his touches were played to perfection, and of course, he boxed a handful of birdie putts to make you think he’d never been away.

Solid. 7/10

Long game:

Tiger certainly didn’t lack speed today with the TaylorMade Qi10 LS driver today. The tour recorded one drive of up to 177 mph in ball speed and he ranked 10th in distance with an average of 313.4 yards. We’ll ignore the accuracy…

Impressive. 7.5/10

Caddie:

Rob McNamara has been Woods’ close friend for many years, but he had a rare moment to shine by carrying his bag on the golf course in the first round.

As reported by Dylan Dethier on Twitter/X, Woods shouted “Great read, Robby” after making his birdie on hole 11 when apparently he “hadn’t read a putt all day.”

“Rob did great,” Wood said. “He didn’t give me a bad number, I did them all today. No, we had a great time today. It was fun to have him out there and have him inside the ropes where I think he has a better appreciation for, you know, what we do inside the ropes.

“Because obviously he’s seen me on the range and activate, warm up or practice sessions, but inside the ropes come game time’s very different.

“That’s a conversation that we had with Joey pre-round, after the round. He normally had different angles and now we have these conversations like during the round, no, I just didn’t really realise from all the years walking the angles that you guys had and that ridge came into play.

“Little weird things, you know.”

I’ll take his word for it. 9/10

NOW READ: ‘I find it disgraceful!’: Ex-Ryder Cupper slams the USA following Rome defeat

Did you enjoy the Tiger Woods Hero World Challenge comeback? Tell us on X!

Matt Chivers

Matt Chivers

Now on the wrong side of 25, Matt has been playing golf since the age of 13 and was largely inspired to take up the game by countless family members who played golf during his childhood.

Matt is a member at Royal Cinque Ports in Deal playing off a 5 handicap, just a pitching wedge away from his hometown of Dover where he went to school and grew up. He has previously been a member at Etchinghill and Walmer and Kingsdown in Kent.

Having studied history at the University of Liverpool, Matt went on to pass his NCTJ Exams in Manchester a year later to fulfil his lifelong ambition of becoming a journalist. He picked up work experience along the way at places such as the Racing Post, the Independent, Sportsbeat and the Lancashire Evening Post.

Matt joined NCG in February 2023 and is the website’s main source of tour news, features and opinion. He has reported live from events such as The Open, the Ryder Cup and The Players Championship, having also interviewed and spent time with some of the biggest names in the sport.

Consuming tour golf on what is a 24/7 basis, you can come to Matt for informed views on the game and the latest updates on the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and LIV Golf.

What’s in Matt’s bag: Cobra LTDx LS driver, Cobra LTDx 3-wood, TaylorMade P7MC irons, Ping Glide 4.0 wedges, Odyssey putter.

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