Tiger Woods acknowledged that he “went sideways at the end” after he dropped four shots in his last four holes to spoil his first competitive start in eight months.
A three-over 75 was hardly disastrous, considering the fact that the 48-year-old’s last act in tournament golf was to withdraw during the third round of the Masters in April.
At that stage there were fears that the 15-time major winner would never play again, as he struggled to come back from a car crash in Feb 2021 that almost cost him his right leg.
Yet such was Woods’s optimism in his pre-match press conference at the Hero World Challenge – the event in the Bahamas promoted by his charitable foundation – that the expectancy was awakened.
And when he went through his first 14 holes in one-under, the positivity fairly soared. The highlight was a 50-footer birdie on the 11th, which only put the icing on a fine display of ball-striking.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) November 30, 2023
Alas, then the rust caught up and a wild drive on the par-five 15th began to loosen the screws on the wheel. He was in a bush and could only advance the ball inches.
Woods wisely pitched it out backward onto the fairway but from there took four to get down – his three-wood to greenside was fine, but his chip was ropey – and the malaise carried on with bogeys on the 16th and 17th.
Woods sounded dejected in his assessment. “I got off to a decent start but didn’t play the par fives particularly well,” he said. “I really had 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.”
Woods understandably appeared tired by the time he reached the clubhouse. “I’m sore, there’s no doubt about that – we’ve got some work to do tonight,” he said. “‘Where was I sore? My leg, my back, my neck. Just from playing, hitting shots and trying to hold off shots.”
There is no cut in the 20-man field, so there is urgency for Woods. However, there is plenty of rehab to be completed if he will last the four rounds.
“Tomorrow morning, first thing, I get back in the gym and activate and get ready for it. Hopefully I’ll hit some better shots,” Woods said. “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.”
Woods only has two below him on the leaderboard, with Open champion Brian Harman leading the way on five-under alongside fellow American Tony Finau. England’s Matt Fitzpatrick shot a two-under to stand in a tie for eighth.