Tiger fires one-over 73 in re­turn from 16-month lay­off

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Show­ing flashes of the form that made him a 14-time ma­jor cham­pion be­fore stum­bling late, Tiger Woods fired a one-over-par 73 Thurs­day at the Hero World Chal­lenge in his long-awaited re­turn to com­pe­ti­tion.

Woods, who has missed 16 months fol­low­ing back surgery, made three con­sec­u­tive birdies to share the lead at four un­der af­ter his first eight holes of the 18-man in­vi­ta­tional event he hosts in the Ba­hamas.

But Woods went five over from there and a clos­ing dou­ble bo­gey left him nine strokes adrift of leader J.B. Holmes.

“All in all, I felt pretty good,” Woods said. “It could have been some­thing re­ally good. I hit the ball in three bushes and a water (haz­ard). Got it go­ing side­ways.”

Fomer world num­ber one Woods, who has fallen to 898th in the rank­ings, birdied the par-5 third and sixth, par-4 sev­enth and par-3 eighth holes at 7,302-yard Al­bany Golf Club in his first com­pet­i­tive round since Au­gust 2015. On the par-5 ninth, the course’s long­est hole at 603 yards, Woods sent his tee shot into tall weeds and sand left of the fair­way, botched a chip and took the first bo­gey of his come­back.

“I didn’t play the par-5s very well in the mid­dle part of the round and con­se­quently got it go­ing the wrong way,” Woods said.

An­other par-5 bo­gey came at 11 and while Woods birdied the par-5 15th, he found a dou­ble-bo­gey dis­as­ter at the par-4 16th and pulled his tee shot into the water to set up his woes at the last.

“Let a good round slip away at the end,” Woods said. “Some bushes and some rocks and it can go side­ways.” Woods was 17th in the field and will play in the first pair­ing Fri­day along­side Rio Olympic cham­pion Justin Rose of Eng­land, who shot 74.

Woods played Thurs­day along­side fel­low Amer­i­can Pa­trick Reed in of­ten windy con­di­tions to end his long­est ca­reer lay­off af­ter 466 days. Clad in black shirt, pants, cap and shoes, Woods found the left rough on his first shot but put his ap­proach 15 feet from the hole and tapped in for an open­ing par. By then, sur­pris­ingly, Woods found him­self into a rhythm, say­ing the best part of the day was “how quickly I got into the com­pet­i­tive flow of the round.”

“By the time I hit my sec­ond tee shot, I found the flow of the round. That came pretty fast af­ter not play­ing for 16 months.”

Woods went over a raised green at the par-5 third hole but chipped to 18 inches and tapped in for his come­back’s first birdie. Re­veal­ing a bald spot on the back of his head when re­mov­ing his cap to wipe sweat, Woods ap­peared fit and swung with com­fort and ease.

Woods sank eight-foot birdie putts at the par-5 sixth and par-4 sev­enth and fol­lowed with a two-foot birdie putt at the par-3 eighth be­fore his bo­gey at nine, a hole he ea­gled in a pro-am Wed­nes­day.

DOU­BLE BO­GEYS SPELLED DOOM

Woods found sand left and right of the fair­way at the par-5 11th and took a bo­gey. At the par-3 12th, Woods made a tense four-foot par putt. At 14, he found green­side sand and then a bunker but es­caped with par af­ter mak­ing a 15-foot putt, pump­ing his right fist even be­fore the ball fell. At the par-5 15th, Woods gave him­self a 10foot ea­gle putt but rolled it two feet past the cup and set­tled for birdie.

But dou­ble bo­gey sixes at 16 and 18 doomed what could have been a solid round. A poor iron shot at 16 found sandy weeds and he found water off the 18th tee then hit the flag­stick on his par chip.

Woods blamed his poor fin­ish on errors, not fa­tigue. “I just made some re­ally silly mis­takes, mis­takes I don’t nor­mally make, but I haven’t played in a while,” he said. “I can clean that up. We’ve got three more days. Wind’s sup­posed to pump on the week­end and I’ll be play­ing a lit­tle bit bet­ter.”

— AFP

NASSAU: Tiger Woods of the United States hits a shot from a green­side bunker on the 14th hole dur­ing round one of the Hero World Chal­lenge at Al­bany, The Ba­hamas on Thurs­day in Nassau, Ba­hamas.

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