If you couldn’t watch Tiger Woods during the first of the 2023 Hero World Challenge on Thursday afternoon, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
The 15-time major champion returned to action this week at the 2023 Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas for the first time since the Masters. Woods, 47, is playing his first competitive round since having a subtalar fusion procedure to address his post-traumatic arthritis from his previous talus fracture (a break in one of the bones that forms the ankle). He said he has none of the pain he dealt with at Augusta National.
Woods teed it up in the first round with Justin Thomas at 11:52 a.m. ET. Check out his Thursday round with shot-by-shot analysis below from Albany in the Bahamas.
My initial reaction to seeing the Big Cat today … the guy looks absolutely jacked.
Woods had all the right things to say on Tuesday during his press conference: he wants to play once a month, a lot of his pain is gone, he still thinks he can win. But let’s temper our expectations for the week. He also said he hasn’t played many full rounds, just a lot of golf holes. Anything near par is a step in the right direction for Woods today.
Hole 1 - Par 4
And we’re off. Tiger goes with the big stick off the first tee and quickly picked up his tee. He cleared a bunker 295 yards down the fairway with ease, that first swing of the day was pummelled (while Justin Thomas missed right of right). From 113 yards out Tiger flipped a wedge just onto the front edge of the green, leaving a putt for birdie from below the hole at a makeable distance. Gave this one a good roll but missed on the amateur side of the hole, leaving a tap-in par to start the round. Not bad from the Big Cat to start.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even through 1.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) November 30, 2023
Hole 2 - Par 3
We saw the driver and wedge on the first hole, let’s see how dialed the iron game is here on the first par-3 of the day.
“C’mon, hit it, don’t go that way,” said Tiger as he watched his ball find the bunker guarding the right side of the green. He’s got plenty of green to work with and should be able to get up-and-down for another par from there.
He left a little meat on the bone with his out. Tried to land it short on the green and let it release but his ball checked up a good eight to ten feet from the hole. No matter, with a smooth stroke of that classic Scott Cameron putter Tiger converts the lengthy par save.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even through 2.
Hole 3 - Par 5
Driver. Fairway. It’s only two swings, sure, but Tiger looks solid with the big stick early. He’s way down the left-center of the fairway. Fairway metal here going for the green in two but this one comes up short and right of the green, once again leaving plenty of space to work with. He’ll have an uphill pitch but this one was missed in the right place.
Gave this one a healthy effort and runs the chip past the hole, leaving around eight feet for another birdie look. Tiger paces this one inside the cup and puts his first circle on the scorecard. That’s an early birdie that should put a little pep in his step.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 1 under through 3.
Hole 4 - Par 4
Boom goes the dynamite as Tiger drills another 300-plus yard drive here at the par-4 fourth. He’s down the right side of the fairway with a little more than 180 yards to the back pin. As soon as he hit his approach Tiger kept saying “no, no, no.” He landed his ball on the green but it kicked off to the right, leaving another chip to get up-and-down for par (but he’ll have considerably less green to play with).
He went with the bump-and-run into a slope to try and get this one close to the cup but it released well past the hole, leaving a testy 17-footer for par. Decent roll here but the pace didn’t match the line as he’s forced to tap in for bogey and immediately give back his birdie.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even through 4.
Hole 5 - Par 3
Birdie-bogey stretch brings Tiger back to even as he stands on the tee box here at the final par 3 on the front. The win is blowing down in the Bahamas and is into the face, left to right, of players today on No. 5. Tiger hit a 6-iron on the 177-yard hole and found the green, just short of the hole. This will be his longest attempt at birdie on the day from just inside 30 feet. The putting has been smooth, but this look from a distance will be a good test.
BANG! (Mike Breen voice). Tiger paced this putt into the cup with ease. Never a doubt. Drops a shot then picks it right back up. Not that Tiger lacks confidence, but that’ll do wonders for his momentum as the front nine wears on.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 1 under through 5.
Hole 6 - Par 5
Another chance at birdie here at the par 5 and it’s another great-looking swing with the driver off the tee here for Tiger as he plays a cut perfectly down the fairway. Can’t say it enough, he’s swinging the driver really well. With his lower body struggles and injuries, a lot of his power has to come from his upper body these days. So far, it’s working.
He took a MASSIVE cut at this one and tried to hit a sweeping hook around the corner with that classy helicopter finish up top. His second found the rough along the fairway but there’s been quite the delay for his third shot. Justin Thomas was arguing for a drop and then in the group ahead, Scottie Scheffler was having some struggles in the bushes to the right of the green.
Following the wait Tiger left his approach short of the green just off the front edge. He’ll have some options with the putter or a wedge from there but it looks like fill-in caddie Rob McNamara has given him the trusted Scotty Cameron flatstick. He went after this putt for birdie but raced it passed the cup leaving a five-footer for par. Nope, that ain’t it. Another birdie was immediately given away by a bogey and we’re back to all square.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even through 6.
Hole 7 - Par 4
Shorter par 4 here at the seventh and the Big Cat pulls the big stick once again. The hole is drivable today, 340 yards to the front edge, but he knew right away this one didn’t have a chance. He finds one of three bunkers guarding the green which will leave a lengthy approach from the sand to the pin at the back of the green. The swing looked solid and wasn’t offline, the distance just wasn’t right.
He tanked this shot from the bunker and caught it a little fat and heavy, leaving a difficult shot from up against the collar off the green a good 50-plus feet away still. Didn’t take much time with this one as he goes with a wedge and hits a little bump-and-run to three feet for par.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even through 7.
Hole 8 - Par 3
Not much to say here about this hole as Tiger found the dance floor off the tee and left another 30-some footer for birdie. He had a good look at this one but just missed the edge and converted his five-footer to save par and stay even. Moving on.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even through 8.
Hole 9 - Par 5
Another bunker found from off the tee here for Tiger as this was probably his worst swing of the day so far with the big stick (and it wasn’t all that bad). He did well just to advance his second up the fairway but his approach left a little to be desired as he once again missed the green short. He hit a nifty little chip that was going for the hole but missed just off the side. His par putt never left the hole and found the bottom of the cup to make the turn at even-par 36.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even through 9.
Thoughts at the turn
I said it at the start, anything near par is a win for Tiger and so far, so good. He’s done well to make a few early birdies but did give them both right back with bogeys on the next hole. There isn’t a hitch in his giddy-up and he’s walking pretty well on the opening nine, though he has been deliberate with his steps and when he bends down. The Scotty Cameron putter stroke is still smooth as silk. The real question: how sustainable is this? Let’s see.
Hole 10 - Par 4
Another great drive from Tiger kicks off the back nine here at No. 10. From the right side of the fairway he went for the pin here and found the green 14 feet below the hole. Another really good roll just missed the edge and Tiger cleaned up for par. After a long break from competition, he’s making the game look easy so far today.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even through 10.
Hole 11 - Par 5
The first leaky swing with the driver today misses the fairway and finds the thick rough guarding a fairway bunker. All Tiger could do from there is advance up the fairway with a layup. This was his first sketchy lie with his feet below the ball in an uncomfortable setup, but it ultimately wasn’t an issue. There’s a considerable drop off the back of the green near where the hole is cut today, and Tiger’s approach is safe here and finds the middle of the green leaving another lengthy look for birdie. Oh wow, another no-doubter drops in the cup for a bomb of a birdie putt. This was a pin-seeking missile of a putt that even led to a little smile from the Big Cat. That’s his first birdie since the fifth (let’s just hope he doesn’t give this one away on the next hole, too).
TIGER ON THE DAY: 1 under through 11
Hole 12 - Par 3
Tiger missed this one way to the right of the green and found the sandy area a good 20-plus yards from the hole. His approach was about as good as you could ask for as it rolled around the hole to leave a putt from inside five feet to save par. No dice here as he tanks the par save and once again, for the third time today, immediately gives away a birdie with a bogey on the following hole.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even through 12.
Hole 13 - Par 4
MASHED POTATOES. Smoked this drive 334 yards down the left side of the fairway. His approach from the short stuff was aimed right at the hole and came to rest beyond the pin inside 20 feet. Two really good swings back-to-back there from Tiger to try and get back on the red side of par. Little too much butter on the bread as this one slips by the hole. No matter, par is saved and it’s on to the next.
TIGER ON THE DAY: Even through 13.
Hole 14 - Par 4
Another big rip with the driver finds the short stuff right of the green on the short par 4. The stats will show a 5-of-10 fairways hit number, but that doesn’t tell the full story for the round. He’s swinging the driver well all things considered. Nifty little chip was flirting with the hole but just skated by, leaving a tap-in for birdie.
TIGER ONT HE DAY: 1 under through 14.
Hole 15 - Par 5
Oh boy, Tiger is gonna need to scramble here to avoid another bogey following a birdie after he blitzed this tee shot way left into the bushes. Yikes, went for the Hero shot (see what I did there?) and fluffed it from the bushes. His ball barely went a foot and for his third he just had to play back out to the fairway. That’s a compounded mistake that could come back to hurt him.
Hitting his fourth from 300 yards away, Tiger’s 3 wood runs short and right of the green still in the fairway, leaving a 40-yard pitch for his fifth that will at least lead to one dropped shot, if not more. Gave himself a shot to save bogey with an approach that came to rest nine feet passed the hole but no dice on the comebacker as he taps in for double. That’ll hurt.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 1 over through 15.
Hole 16 - Par 4
The drives are starting to leak even more now as this one finds the bunker, leaving a tough 200-yard shot to the green. His approach is pin-high but misses the green to the right. The wheels on the round are coming off, coming off, coming off as Tiger puts another square on the scorecard with a bogey. His shot onto the green left a 20-foot downhill putt for par that missed low and left. Tiger had a really strong round going given the circumstances but stepped in it the last two holes.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 2 over through 16.
Hole 17 - Par 3
Tiger pulls 7-iron here and ends up where I am at weddings: right in the middle of the dance floor. It’s a no-nonsense shot that will leave a lengthy birdie putt as he looks to stop the bleeding and close out his opening round. Gave this one a good roll but didn’t pair the pasta with the sauce. He juiced this five-footer and lipped out for par for yet another square to go deeper on the wrong side of par.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 3 over through 17.
Hole 18 - Par 4
Ends the day with a great swing off the tee and finds his way back to the fairway here at the last. The driver started to leak on the back nine and a solid swing at 18 will do wonders for his momentum entering the second round. Safe shot here finds the front half of the green and should set up a two-putt par to leave the last three holes behind. He’s made a couple 30-plus footers today, why not one more? Another good look leaves a tap-in par to stop the bogey bleeding and seal the deal for a rusty return to competition.
TIGER ON THE DAY: 3 over 75.