Tiger Woods’ golf return at Hero World Challenge has momentum stalled by late collapse

Tiger Woods’ golf return at Hero World Challenge has momentum stalled by late collapse

Tiger Woods had a solid round going on Thursday at the Hero World Challenge. He stripped his opening tee shot, made a few long putts, and impressed playing partner Justin Thomas with some towering iron shots.

But his round completely derailed at the par-5 15th hole, where Woods pulled his tee shot into a bush.

His ball nestled up against the vegetation, leaving an awkward second shot.

Woods then looked like a middle-handicapper, trying to gauge it out. He barely succeeded, with his second shot going just a couple of feet.

“I just tried to advance it into the bunker, hack it out, and then knock it on the green from there,” Woods said to Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis after the round.

“But I did not really quite get it out, so I had to pitch it back to the fairway, and I still had an opportunity to get up and down for bogey, but just did not do it.”

He made a double bogey seven just like that, going from one-under on the day to one-over, and his momentum completely stalled.

Woods then saw his short game abandon him on the ensuing holes, as he could not get up and down for par on the 16th. He then three-putted the par-3 17th, which dropped him to 3-over.

The 15-time major champion then made a par on the 18th, thus signing for a 3-over 75. He sits eight strokes behind leaders Tony Finau and Brian Harman, who each shot 5-under 67s.

Woods admitted to feeling “rusty” after his round, and how could you not blame him? He has not played competitively since the 2023 Masters. Since his car accident in February 2021, Woods has played in six events total.

“I want to compete, I want to play. I felt like I was ready to compete and play,” Woods said after his round.

Tiger Woods, Hero World Challenge

Tiger Woods removes his ‘Frank’ headcover during the opening round of the 2023 Hero World Challenge.
Photo by Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR via Getty Images

“I hit it solid most of the day. I just didn’t mentally do the things I normally would do, and I need to do. I still hit it solid, but I hit it crooked. I’ve always had a knack for hitting the ball in the middle of the face, but I need to do a better job where I need to hit it in my windows.”

Woods struck the middle of the club face with his opening tee shot, which impressed the small crowd in the Bahamas. His 326-yard drive on the first hole was the longest of the day on the opening par-4.

He made par there, and his first birdie came two holes later, at the par-5 3rd. But then he went on to make bogey-birdie-bogey over his next three holes.

But the big highlight of his round came at the par-5 11th, where he drained a 48-footer for birdie.

That got him to 1-under, but that was the lowest he would get.

With that said, Woods knows he has to be better.

“You take it for granted, I guess, when you’re playing all the time,” Woods said.

“Okay, the wind, it’s coming up, [it will] 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 of 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, I was pulling the trigger. I shouldn’t 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.”

Thankfully Woods will not have to worry about making a cut. The Hero World Challenge is a 20-man field with no cuts. He sits in 18th entering Friday.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko for more golf coverage. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough too.

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