Roundup: Tiger's Back! Looks Sharp In Hero Opening 69

The reviews were understandably positive as Tiger opened with a 69 in his Hero World Challenge comeback from a fusion surgery some believed was career-ending.

A few shaky wedge shots that looked more rusty than yippy to me dropped the performance from an A to maybe an A-, but Woods otherwise looked like his persistent old self. The coverage noted the grinding and driving distance, regularly at 320 yards with the big stick.

Steve DiMeglio for USA Today:

On the fourth hole of his latest comeback, the Tiger Woods of old showed up when he chunked a short chip shot.

Moments later, the Tiger of old showed up again when he buried a 20-footer for par on the same hole and uncorked the first fist pump of his comeback.

While Woods called his ballyhooed return “up and down,” he produced far more roars than groans in Thursday’s first round of the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Course. In his first start in 10 months and just his fourth in two years, the former world No. 1 didn’t have any issues with his surgically repaired back and was a physical, powerful brute with driver in hand — regularly exceeding 320 yards off the tee.

Doug Ferguson for the AP:

Unlike a year ago, when Woods ended a 15-month hiatus from his ailing back, he didn’t show any fatigue at the end of his round or make any big numbers. His only regret was playing the par 5s at Albany Golf Club in 1-over par with two bogeys that stalled his momentum.

Coming off a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-3 eighth, Woods hit a 3-wood that rolled up on the green and then down a slope about 30 feet from the pin. It took him four shots from there, starting with a chip that didn’t reach the green and his first expletive loud enough for television to pick up.

After his best shot of the day — a pitching wedge he hit low from 95 yards that settled a foot behind the hole for birdie on No. 14 — he sent a drive well to the right into the native dunes. Woods had to take a penalty drop to get back in play and wound up making bogey.

But it was solid enough that Woods was far more interested in the leaderboard than the fact he felt strong physically.

Bob Harig for

The spinal fusion surgery meant Woods had to wait six months to take full swings, and did not get back to hitting balls in earnest until mid-October, just six weeks ago.

So hitting 7 out of 13 fairways, 12 out of 18 greens and needing 28 putts was a solid performance, even on a relatively benign Albany Golf Club course that saw 15 of the 18 players break par.

The urgency and grinding-like-few-others energy that Woods brought was evident on TV, and in person, as Jeff Babineau noted in his Golfweek lede:

Tiger Woods stood over an 8-footer to save par on his final hole in his long-awaited comeback round on Thursday at the Hero World Challenge, and he never did see the majestic double rainbow that seemed to stretch across the entire island behind him.

Typical Tiger. Some parts of his game may be rusty. His penchant for grinding is not among them.

And there was the overall gratitude of Woods to be playing again, an admission made with a candor and consideration that is boosting his karma score.

From Brian Wacker's Golf World piece:

The emotion Woods felt Thursday when he woke up for the opening round of the Hero World Challenge?

“I was very thankful this morning,” he said. “I was in my head thanking all the people who have helped me in giving me a chance to come back and play this round again.

“There were a lot of people that were instrumental in my life; friends, outside people I’ve never met before, obviously my surgeon.”

Tiger’s Masters odds fell, from 66-1 to 33-1.


Tiger's extended first round highlights by PGA Tour Entertainment: