Tiger Woods cuts his pro-am round to nine holes at Hero World Challenge

NASSAU, Bahamas – What Tiger Woods says goes at the Hero World Challenge.

And Wednesday morning, Woods determined that nine holes – not the 18 that the rest of the field played – was sufficient for him at the pro-am portion at Albany Golf Club.

Don’t read too much into it. His latest comeback isn’t being derailed by another setback – although with Tiger you can never know for sure. Rather, to borrow a phrase from the pandemic, Woods is taking an abundance of caution and “wants to save himself for the next four days,” business manager Rob McNamara, who will serve as his caddie this week, said.

Asked if nine holes was always the plan, McNamara said, “As of this morning.”

Woods did tab himself a “committee of one” who determined he would receive a tournament exemption into the 20-man field event that he’s won five times during his career.

Woods’s swing during the pro-am looked a little shorter, which may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for his game. He looks strong, and his walk looked better than the last time we saw him gutting out weekend rounds at Augusta. There’s a still a hitch in his giddy-up and a noticeable limp from the injuries he suffered to his lower right leg, ankle and foot in his February 2021 single-car crash in Los Angeles.

Woods told reporters Tuesday that the pain in his ankle is no longer an issue thanks to surgery for a right subtalar fusion in April.

“I’m not concerned at all about walking it,” Woods said. “It’s more, as I said, I don’t have any of the ankle pain that I had with the hardware that’s been placed in my foot, that’s all gone. The other parts of my body, my knee hurts, my back. The forces go somewhere else.”

Nevertheless, a big part of the test this week is to see him walk 72 holes – or shall we say 81 including the pro-am – and if he can handle that sort of load on a flat course before he starts to consider kicking off the 2024 season at the Genesis Invitational in February and ramping up for the Masters in April.

Woods said his game is still rusty and there was at least one moment that suggested that to be true. On the ninth hole, Tiger pulled his drive into a transition area of sand and seashells. When he grabbed a fairway metal, McNamara shouted to some photographers in his line to move out of the way.

“He’s got a bad lie,” McNamara said, warning that this ball could be headed in their direction.

“No, it’s a good lie,” Woods confidently declared.

But perhaps he was a little overly optimistic as he topped the shot no more than 50 yards.

“Never mind,” Woods said to the photographers. “You’re all good.”

So, hopefully, is his back. As Woods made his way from the ninth green to the clubhouse, where he agreed to do lunch with his pro-am foursome rather than another nine holes, he said, “Tomorrow will be different.”

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Tiger Woods of The United States walks with the Ladies European Tour player Victoria Lovelady of…

Tiger Woods of The United States walks with the Ladies European Tour player Victoria Lovelady of Brazil during the pro-am as a preview for the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Course on November 29, 2023 in Nassau, Bahamas. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

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Tiger Woods of The United States poses with Dr Pawan Munjal of India The Chairman, managing…

Tiger Woods of The United States poses with Dr Pawan Munjal of India The Chairman, managing director and CEO of The Hero MotoCorp during the pro-am as a preview for the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Course on November 29, 2023 in Nassau, Bahamas. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

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Tiger Woods of The United States warms up on the driving range prior to playing in the pro-am as a preview for the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Course on November 29, 2023 in Nassau, Bahamas. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

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Tiger Woods during a press conference with Dr. Pawan Munjal of India The Chairman, Managing Director…

Tiger Woods during a press conference with Dr. Pawan Munjal of India The Chairman, Managing Director and CEO of The Hero MotoCorp prior to the Hero World Challenge at Albany on November 28, 2023 in Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas. (Photo by Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

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Tiger Woods during a press conference with Dr. Pawan Munjal of India The Chairman, Managing Director and CEO of The Hero MotoCorp prior to the Hero World Challenge at Albany on November 28, 2023 in Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas. (Photo by Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

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Tiger Woods on the practice putting green with Lucas Glover prior to the Hero World Challenge at Albany on November 28, 2023 in Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas. (Photo by Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

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Tiger Woods of The United States plays a shot during practice as a preview for the…

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Tiger Woods of The United States adjusts his new driver with the assistance of a Taylor Made member of staff during practice as a preview for the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Course on November 28, 2023 in Nassau, . (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

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Tiger Woods of The United States hits a driver on the range as a preview for…

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Story originally appeared on GolfWeek