Date: December 02, 2016
Author: Mark Hayes with ESPN

Tiger return mixes good with bad

Tiger Woods returned to competitive golf today with a rash of front-nine birdies and a back-nine shot of reality.

After 15 months out for back surgeries, it was a mostly positive first round at the Hero World Challenge, where Woods exhibited a modified golf swing that was largely under control.

His putting helped save a few shots and his short game was largely sharp to help alleviate talk of previous chipping problems.

But two double-bogeys over his final three holes and several missed drives to the left during the back nine resulted in a 1-over-par 73 at Albany Golf Club that beat just one player in the 18-man field.

Tiger Woods was four under through his first eight holes, a good sign in what was his first pro event since the August 2015 Wyndham Championship.

"It felt good," Woods said after his first competitive round in 466 days.

"I felt the feel of the round by the second hole, the tee shot. I can feel the round, and that was nice.

"And once I got into the feel of the round, got off to a nice start, I was 4-under par there for a little bit. Unfortunately, I hit the ball in three bushes and had a water ball, so consequently I let a really good round slip away at the end."

He birdied three in a row starting at the sixth, then barely pulled his tee shot on the par-5 ninth, his ball coming to rest in a sandy area, leading to a bogey after a poor chip shot.

He still turned in at 3-under 33, but he played the remaining 10 holes in 5-over par, with a birdie, two bogeys and two doubles.

"His swing looked good," said Patrick Reed, who played with Woods and shot a 72.

"When he hit it well, it was really, really good, and when you mis-hit it, it was kind of … they weren't very good misses.

"But at the end of the day, to take off as much time as he had and come back and be his first competitive round and to have the kind of spurts that he had throughout the round, it was good to see because there's nothing like hitting balls on the range and practising and going out and playing some holes.

"But getting under the gun like that it was cool to see."

Woods will rue two bogeys on par 5s (the ninth and 11th) and a double-bogey at the 16th after a perfect drive.

At the 18th, he tried to cut too much off the corner and his tee shot found the water en route to another double-bogey.

Woods hit just six of 13 fairways and 11 greens in regulation. He needed just 26 putts. The fairways he missed were all tee shots that went left, either pulled or hitting too much of a draw.

"I just made some mistakes," said Woods, 40, who won the last of his 79 PGA Tour titles in 2013.

"I tried to hug that left side on nine, tried to get it down that corner and it just stayed up in the bush there, made a mistake. Tugged it up the left side on 11. Tried to hit one really hard and made a mistake there, put it in another bush on my layup.

"I just made some really, if you look at it, some really silly mistakes, mistakes I don't normally make.

"But I haven't played in a while. Unfortunately, I made those mistakes, I can clean that up. We've got three more days."

Woods is nine strokes behind leader J.B. Holmes, who shot a 64. But given all the scrutiny of his game, overall lack of preparation, few were going to put much emphasis on how he fares on the tournament that benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation.

Woods said he felt a bit fatigued afterwards and that managing his back was going to be an ongoing part of his routines.

"But it felt good to have that adrenaline surging through the system again," Woods said.

"It's been a long time. To get up there on that first hole and feel it again and then dumb it down to be able to control it and get into my feel where I play my best, that was nice."