Tiger Woods returns: How did he play? What looked good? What looked bad?

Tiger Woods returns: How did he play? What looked good? What looked bad?
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Tiger Woods, a couple days ahead of this latest return, said he was excited, but curious — “as all of you are,” he added. Later, in his pre-Hero World Challenge press conference, Woods said he expected to win. If we’re to judge, he was being honest, in a cliche kind of way.

Justin Thomas, though, maybe summed up the hopes and dreams best.

“Obviously he’s never going to be as sharp as he wants given the amount of — that he’s gone through with his body and whatnot,” Thomas said, “but at the same time — I’m sure he said it earlier and he’s always going to say it — he’s not going to tee it up if he thinks he’s going to come out here and embarrass himself. He wants to play well.”

At 11:52 a.m. local time on Thursday in the Bahamas, off the first hole at Albany Golf Course, during the Hero’s first round, Woods hit a golf ball for the first time since exiting the Masters in April. Days after Augusta, he had the area around his ankle fused, the latest in a number of procedures over a career that’s seen him win 15 majors and 82 PGA Tour tournaments, and he mostly hadn’t been heard or seen from since.

So how did he look Thursday? With his golf? With his legs?

Did Woods play well?

Did Woods embarrass himself?

Read on.

What were Tiger Woods’ highlights?

— The look of comfort with his swing. Since his return from a 2021 car crash, the ‘new’ Woods has relied more on a noticeably larger upper body in his swing, lessening the work his legs have to do. Thursday was more of the same, and he appeared comfortable. While not as explosive-looking as it was once, his swing does not lack for power, though. On No. 1, no player in the 20-man field hit his tee shot farther.

— No noticeable walking problems. More on that below. But in short, there was no noticeable limp. If you’re a Woods fan, this might be your biggest highlight.

— The tee shot on 1. As noted above, on his first shot of the day, from the tee on the 438-yard, par-4 1st, Woods ripped one 326 yards, tied with Max Homa for the longest shot on the day on the hole.

— Par putt on 2. The first nervy putt. From 9 feet away on the 169-yard, par-3 2nd, Woods made his par. Business as usual.

— Birdie on 3. The first birdie make. From 10 feet away on the 555-yard, par-5 3rd, made his birdie. Business as usual.

— Birdie on 5. The second birdie. And the first bounce back from a bogey. Woods dropped a shot on the 4th, only to rebound with a 28-footer for birdie on the next hole. Business as usual.

— Second shot on 6. The shot-maker. After his tee shot on the 563-yard, par-5 6th settled about 15 yards behind a tall bush on the left side of the hole, Woods worked his ball right to left, flirting with the out of bounds area on the right. It showed confidence.

— Birdie on 11. The 48-footer was good. The knowing smile, afterward, was better.

— Birdie on 14. Woods played this risk-reward hole well. On the 310-yard par-4 14th, he covered 297 yards of it with his tee ball, then chipped to 4 feet on his way to birdie.

— In the end, he made four birdies in a three-over round of 75. He’s eight shots behind leaders Brian Harman and Tony Finau.

What were Tiger Woods’ lowlights?

— An awful finish. After 14 holes, Woods was one-under. Hopes were high. Then they crashed. He finished this way: double bogey after a questionable decision; bogey after a poor pitch, bogey on a three-putt; par.

— A poor decision. On the 554-yard, par-5 15th, Woods hit his tee shot into a bush, then things snowballed. Instead of taking an unplayable, Woods worked his way into the shrub — only to hit his ball a foot. From there, he played his third shot backward, and he finished with a double bogey. It’s here where we’ll note that Woods confidante, Rob McNamara, is on the bag this week. Would an experienced caddie have coaxed Woods into a different play?

— An inability to build momentum. Woods followed a birdie on 3 with a bogey on 4. He followed a birdie on 5 with a bogey on 6. He followed a birdie on 11 with a bogey on 12. He followed a birdie on 14 with a double bogey on 15 and bogeys on 16 and 17.

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— Squirrelly irons on 2 and 4 and 12. Notably, three iron shots got away from Woods — his tee shot on the 169-yard, par-3 2nd, which went out to the right; his fourth on the 503-yard, par-4 4th, which went out to the right; and his tee shot on the 187-yard, par-3 12th, which, yes, went out to the right. It’s something to watch.

— Three-putt from 13 feet. After three shots on the 563-yard, par-5 6th, Woods was 13 feet away. From there, he putted 5 feet past the hole, then missed from there for a bogey. Rust? Maybe.

— Three-putt from 49 feet. After hitting the green on the 191-yard, par-3 17th, Woods hit his first putt to 5 feet — then rimmed out his par putt.

— Pitch shot on 16. After the double bogey on 15, this hole wasn’t much better. Woods drove into a fairway bunker, hit out to the right of the green, then made poor contact from a grainy lie and left himself 21 feet for par. He missed that and dropped another shot.

— Bunker shot on 7. We’re being a little rough here, but after driving into a greenside bunker on the 359-yard, par-4 7th, Woods made poor contact and just reached the fringe. He managed a par after chipping to 3 feet.

— In the end, he made five bogeys and one double bogey in a three-over round of 75. He’s eight shots behind leaders Harman and Finau.

How was Tiger Woods walking?

As noted, he walked well. But one play stood out. On his second shot on the 587-yard, par-5 11th, Woods found himself just to the right of a fairway bunker, on an upslope. The lie would test even those with stable legs. Woods? He took a powerful half-swing, moved his ball up the fairway and moved on. His legs were steady. The test was passed.

At one point late in the back nine, we should note he was seen stretching out his leg.

What did the commentators say?

This was notable, from Golf Channel on-course reporter John Wood:

“The one thing I like to watch with him right now, his head is up; he’s talking with Justin [Thomas], he’s talking with Bones [Thomas’ caddie, Jim “Bones” Mackay]. You know, when he’s in a lot of pain, it is grit teeth, head down and no talking at all. I really feel like he’s in less pain now than he’s been in a long time.”

This exchange was notable, from Golf Channel analysts Curt Byrum and Paul McGinley, as Woods walked up 18:

“My impression is, he looked really good through nine holes, 10 holes, whatever, and he got into this back nine, and I feel like he just ran out of gas,” Byrum said during the broadcast. “Maybe a little bit mentally as well as physically. It’s been seven months since he’s walked the golf course really like this. … I just feel like he ran out of gas here on the back.”

McGinley agreed.

“A little bit of clumsiness that you wouldn’t expect from Tiger — three-putt on the 6th hole cost him a shot, a couple of errant iron shots with left-to-right winds and then obviously the decision on 15, which he seemed he rushed to and came to very quickly,” he said. “Kind of an unforced error there. All in all, I think we’ll have a better idea by the end of the week; you know, the compounding of one round after another round after another round will give us a clearer picture. But overall, not too bad for a first day.”

What did Tiger Woods’ scorecard look like?

Here is the complete breakdown:

Hole 1 438-yard par-4 (par)Shot 1: 326 yards to the right side of the fairway, 113 yards to the holeShot 2: 108 yards to the green, 13 feet, 10 inches to the holeShot 3: Putt 15 feet, 5 inches, 15 inches to the holeShot 4: In the hole

Hole 2 169-yard par-3 (par)Shot 1: 179 yards to the right greenside bunker, 38 feet, 10 inches to the holeShot 2: 30 feet, 10 inches to the green, 9 feet, 3 inches to the holeShot 3: In the hole

Hole 3 555-yard par-5 (birdie)Shot 1: 276 yards to the left side of the fairway, 289 yards to the holeShot 2: 280 yards to the right rough, 65 feet, 4 inches to the holeShot 3: 75 feet, 0 inches to the green, 10 feet to the holeShot 4: In the hole

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Hole 4 503-yard par-4 (bogey)Shot 1: 317 yards to the right side of the fairway, 186 yards to the holeShot 2: 190 yards to the right side of the fairway, 42 feet, 4 inches to the holeShot 3: 60 feet, 6 inches to the green, 17 feet, 11 inches to the holeShot 4: Putt 16 feet, 10 inches, 2 feet, 5 inches to the holeShot 5: In the hole

Hole 5 177-yard par-3 (birdie)Shot 1: 168 yards to the green, 28 feet, 3 inches to the holeShot 2: In the hole

Hole 6 563-yard par-5 (bogey)Shot 1: 300 yards to the left rough, 286 yards to the holeShot 2: 194 yards to the right rough, 110 yards to the holeShot 3: 105 yards to the left side of the fairway, 13 feet, 10 inches to the holeShot 4: 19 feet, 10 inches to the green, 5 feet, 9 inches to the holeShot 5: Putt 6 feet, 7 inches, 2 feet, 1 inch to the holeShot 6: In the hole

Hole 7 359-yard par-4 (par)Shot 1: 320 yards to the front-center greenside bunker, 41 yards to the holeShot 2: 70 feet, 0 inches to the fringe, 54 feet, 2 inches to the holeShot 3: 57 feet, 1 inch to the green, 3 feet, 10 inches to the holeShot 4: In the hole

Hole 8 193-yard par-3 (par)Shot 1: 203 yards to the green, 33 feet, 7 inches to the holeShot 2: Putt 38 feet, 3 inches, 5 feet, 8 inches to the holeShot 3: In the hole

Hole 9 615-yard par-5 (par)Shot 1: 311 yards to the left fairway bunker, 304 yards to the holeShot 2: 180 yards to the right side of the fairway, 125 yards to the holeShot 3: 116 yards to the right side of the fairway, 28 feet, 8 inches to the holeShot 4: 34 feet, 8 inches to the green, 6 feet, 1 inch to the holeShot 5: In the hole

Hole 10 420-yard par-4 (par)Shot 1: 295 yards to the right side of the fairway, 139 yards to the holeShot 2: 134 yards to the green, 14 feet, 1 inch to the holeShot 3: Putt 15 feet, 0 inches, 7 inches to holeShot 4: In the hole

Hole 11 587-yard par-5 (birdie)Shot 1: 273 yards to the right rough, 314 yards to the holeShot 2: 169 yards to the left side of the fairway, 146 yards to the holeShot 3: 133 yards to the green, 48 feet, 1 inch to the holeShot 4: In the hole

Hole 12 187-yard par-3 (bogey)Shot 1: 188 yards to the native area, 77 feet, 11 inches to the holeShot 2: 80 feet, 1 inch to the green, 11 feet, 3 inches to the holeShot 3: Putt 11 feet, 1 inch, 3 inches to the holeShot 4: In the hole

Hole 13 514-yard par-4 (par)Shot 1: 335 yards to the left rough, 179 yards to the holeShot 2: 185 yards to the green, 16 feet, 6 inches to the holeShot 3: Putt 21 feet, 7 inches, 6 feet, 3 inches to the holeShot 4: In the hole

Hole 14 310-yard par-4 (birdie)Shot 1: 297 yards to the right side of the fairway, 84 feet, 5 inches to the holeShot 2: 89 feet, 0 inches to the green, 4 feet, 5 inches to the holeShot 3: In the hole

Hole 15 554-yard par-5 (double bogey)Shot 1: 299 yards to the native area, 261 yards to the holeShot 2: 7 feet, 1 inch to the native area, 263 yards to the holeShot 3: 46 yards to the left side of the fairway, 304 yards to the holeShot 4: 275 yards to the right side of the fairway, 43 yards to the holeShot 5: 46 yards to the green, 9 feet, 1 inch to the holeShot 6: Putt 13 feet, 3 inches, 4 feet, 6 inches to the holeShot 7: In the hole

Hole 16 476-yard par-4 (bogey)Shot 1: 275 yards to the right fairway bunker, 201 yards to the holeShot 2: 196 yards to the right side of the fairway, 97 feet, 5 inches to the holeShot 3: 76 feet, 2 inches to the green, 21 feet, 5 inches to the holeShot 4: Putt 24 feet, 7 inches, 2 feet, 10 inches to the holeShot 5: In the hole

Hole 17 189-yard par-3 (bogey)Shot 1: 181 yards to the green, 45 feet, 1 inch to the holeShot 2: Putt 49 feet, 10 inches, 5 feet, 4 inches to the holeShot 3: Putt 6 feet, 10 inches, 14 inches to the holeShot 4: In the hole

  Sections

Hole 18 459-yard par-4 (par)Shot 1: 310 yards to the right side of the fairway, 166 yards to the holeShot 2: 156 yards to the green, 32 feet, 11 inches to the holeShot 3: Putt 32 feet, 2 inches, 3 feet, 1 inch to the holeShot 4: In the hole

What were Tiger Woods’ stats?

Here is the complete breakdown:

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee: -0.690 (17th out of 20)SG: Tee to Green: -3.646 (18th)Driving distance: 302.6 (15th)Driving accuracy: 6 of 13 (19th)

SG: Approach the Green: -2.090 (20th)Greens hit: 10 of 18

SG: Around the Green: -0.866 (13th)

SG: Putting: -0.054 (11th)

SG: Scoring: -3.700 (18th)

What did Tiger Woods say after his round?

A sampling of quotes from Woods after his round:

Reporter: “Tiger, seems like the goal today was kind of to test both your game and your body. How would you assess both?”

Woods: “Yeah, you know, I got off to a decent start. I didn’t play the par 5s particularly well all day. I was telling Todd [Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis] over there I had really a lack of commitment through most of the middle part of my round and finishing. I just didn’t quite commit to what I was doing and feeling. You take it for granted, I guess, when you’re playing all the time. OK, the wind, it’s coming up, move the ball back, you just kind of lean on it just a little bit, just flight it down a little bit, add a couple yards in. Instead of reacting to it, I was thinking about doing it. Then as I was thinking about it, should I do this or not, by then I’m pulling the trigger. 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.”

Reporter: “How do you feel now? Did you get through it better than you might have thought?”

Woods: “I’m sore, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve got some work to do tonight. I was saying to Todd, tomorrow get back in the gym and activate and get ready for it. Hopefully hit some better shots. And now I know mentally what I need to do better. I think that’s something that physically I knew I was going to be OK. Mentally, I was really rusty and made a lot of errors in the mind that normally I don’t make.”

Reporter: “Where do you feel sore?”

Woods: “Everywhere.”

Reporter: “Where is the most?”

Woods: “My leg, my back, my neck. 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.”

Reporter: “What’s the biggest swing change you needed to make because of this particular surgery?”

Woods: “It wasn’t a major swing change. It just is more of a lack of mobility. My ankle really has no mobility anymore. I can’t drive my knee like I used to, and obviously I can’t twist like I used to because my back is fused. There’s just a lack of things I can’t do, but it’s not like I have any — I’ve made any major swing changes or I’ve tried to make any changes. I just let my body just tell me what I need to do.”

What did other players say about Tiger Woods’ round?

Said Harman: “Well, the guy’s in phenomenal shape. Looks like he could suit it up for the Dawgs [Georgia football] on Saturday. He is one heck of an athlete. I hope he feels good, I hope he’s moving good, I hope he’s pain free and can play a little bit more.”

What was your takeaway of Tiger Woods’ round?

Let’s wait. We should consider this entire tournament a warm-up. A practice round. A chance for Woods to assess. We can start to judge at the Genesis. Or at the Masters, which is what Woods is gearing for. That being said, one takeaway through one day is the walk. He looked good. The game, meanwhile, looked a little sloppy at times. But he didn’t seem overly concerned. Nor should you.

What’s next for Tiger Woods?

Fifty-four more holes. That’ll be the biggest test in this latest comeback.

The next 18 for Woods starts at 11:02 a.m. on Friday, when he’ll play alongside Rickie Fowler in round two. Golf Channel coverage starts at 12:30 p.m.