Tiger sore in return, finishes with ‘squirrely’ 75


NASSAU, Bahamas — After the first competitive round of his latest comeback, Tiger Woods said his surgically repaired right foot and ankle held up well over the opening 18 holes at the Hero World Challenge on Thursday.

That doesn’t mean the 15-time major champion wasn’t hurting.

“My leg, my back, my neck,” Woods said when asked what was sore. “Just from playing, hitting shots and trying to hold off shots. It’s just different at game speed, too. Game speed’s a lot different than at-home speed.”

It probably didn’t matter that Woods carded a 3-over 75 in the first round, which was good for 18th place out of 20 golfers, 8 shots behind co-leaders Brian Harman and Tony Finau. Or that Woods was 4 over in the last four holes after he seemed to run out of gas.

What probably mattered, at least for Woods, was that he was able to play a round of competitive golf without the excruciating pain he experienced at the Masters in April, when he was forced to withdraw during the third round.

Woods, who turns 48 next month, had subtalar fusion surgery on his right ankle two weeks after the Masters to address post-traumatic arthritis that was caused by injuries suffered in a car wreck outside Los Angeles in February 2021.

“I was going to have to have this ankle either replaced or fused at some point,” Woods said. “It just wore out and I was dealing with bone-on-bone for a number of months. I don’t have to worry about that anymore.”

Playing in his first PGA Tour event in more than seven months, Woods was rusty. He carded five bogeys and a double-bogey on the par-5 15th, the easiest hole on the course. Woods hit only six of 13 fairways and 10 of 18 greens in regulation. He lost 2.09 strokes to the field on approach.

Woods said he was never entirely comfortable over the ball.

“The middle part of my round, it was a lack of commitment, and it kind of carried into some of the final holes,” Woods said. “I didn’t commit over some of the shots. I was kind of squirrely about whether I should hit this shot, this height, this trajectory. The wind is puffing up, it’s not, it’s laying down. All the things you normally take for granted with feels and adjustments, I had a lack of commitment on a number of different shots.”

There were some bright spots during the round. Woods crushed a 326-yard drive on his opening tee shot and had good club speed. He made birdie putts of 22 feet on No. 3, 28 feet on No. 5, 48 feet on No. 11 and 4 1/2 feet on No. 14. He was 1 under after 14 holes.

“I wanted to compete, I wanted to play,” Woods said. “I felt like I was ready to compete and play. I hit it solid most of the day. As I said, I just didn’t mentally do the things I normally would do and I need to do. I still hit it solid, but I hit it crooked. I’ve always had a knack of hitting the ball in the middle of the face, but I need to do a better job where I need to hit it in my windows.”

Woods will have three more chances to do it this week. The Hero World Challenge, an unofficial tour event, is a 72-hole tournament with no cut.

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