NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Tiger Woods held up just fine Thursday in his first time competing in eight months, except for limping at the end. That was more about his golf than his fused right ankle.
Woods was holding his own at the Hero World Challenge until a double bogey from a bush on the par-5 15th, followed by two more bogeys. The result was a 3-over 75, eight shots out of the lead and a score better than only two players in the 20-man field at Albany.
Asked what he got out of his round, Woods laughed and said, “Hit a lot of shots.”
British Open champion Brian Harman and Tony Finau led the way at 5-under 67, one shot ahead of Jordan Spieth, who was entertaining as ever. Spieth made only five pars and had one stretch of 10 holes without one until the final hole.
But this day was all about Woods, as it usually is whenever he plays, and especially when he has been away for so long. He expected to be rusty, and it eventually it showed.
“I didn’t have my feels,” Woods said. “Conditions were tough early. I did not finish off the round like I needed to. Kind of went sideways at the end.”
He was 1 under for the round through 14 holes when he pulled his tee shot to the left at the base of a bush. He contemplated his options before decided to try to punch it out toward the fairway or even a bunker, even though he could take the club back only a foot or so.
Woods caught mostly soil and advanced it only a few feet. He punched his third shot back to the fairway and then came up about 40 yards short of the green. He pitched that to 10 feet only to miss the bogey putt.
He found a fairway bunker off the tee on the tough 16th, came up short of the green and hit a weak pitch to 20 feet that led to bogey. Then, he three-putted the par-3 17th from 45 feet.
Woods wasn’t the only player who struggled in his return. Will Zalatoris had back surgery right after he withdrew from the Masters. He had three double bogeys and a bogey in a four-hole stretch around the turn and closed with one more bogey for an 81.
Woods attributed his mistakes to a lack of commitment, that coming from a lack of playing. Instincts gave way to thinking about too many elements as he began to swing.
“Should I do this or not? By then I’m pulling the trigger,” he said. “I shouldn’t really pull the trigger. Hit a bad shot. I kept doing it time and time again. It was a lack of commitment to what I was doing and feeling. I’ve got to do a better job of it.”
He also said he was plenty sore and would resume the process he has come to know all too well — recovery in the evening, back in the gym to get his body ready before the next round.
He still had no regrets about playing for the first time since Saturday at the Masters. He didn’t finish his rain-delayed third round in the April chill at Augusta, and then had fusion surgery on his right ankle a few weeks later.
“I wanted to compete, I wanted to play. I felt like I was ready to compete and play,” Woods said. “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.”
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