Tiger Woods shot 3-over 75 in Round 1 of the 2023 Hero World Challenge on Thursday in the Bahamas, but that was hardly the story. In his first round since withdrawing from the Masters in April, Woods -- following a subtalar fusion procedure earlier after that Masters -- looked more physically fit and capable with both his swing and his game than he has over the last few years.
Through 14 holes, he had it going a bit, too. Woods hit his first tee shot in nearly eight months for 326 yards, tied for the longest in the field on that particular hole. What followed were some free, great drives followed by sloppy approach play that often left him in bad spots on the open but fairly testy Albany Golf Course.
"I was rusty; I didn't have my feels," Woods told Golf Channel. "Conditions were tough early. I kind of hung in there, and I did not finish off my round the way I needed to. Consequently, it kind of went sideways at the end."
His putter was hot, though. Woods rolled in birdie putts of 22 feet, 28 feet and 48 feet throughout the day.
Tiger got into trouble late, though, when he pulled his drive into the brush at the par-5 15th, tried to pitch out and made double bogey. He followed that with two more bogeys, which ballooned his score from 1 under and within striking distance of the lead with just four holes left to 3 over and in 18th place out of 20 when he finished the round.
"The middle part of my round, it was a lack of commitment, and it kind of carried into some of the final holes," said Woods. "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."
Regardless, the day has to be considered a success for Tiger, given how little he's played over the last few years and how many tournaments from which he's had to withdraw. He said afterward that he was going to be sore, which is to be expected at this point. But Tiger looked strong, fluid, and frankly, he looked like a normal professional golfer, which is a win for him at this point.
Woods' score at this December tournament is inconsequential. What matters is whether he can sustain playing consistently enough to potentially play one tournament a month in 2024. So far, so good on that front. Even though there is a lot to clean up -- particularly with his unusually wild iron play -- Round 1 since ankle surgery in April was a win for Tiger Woods.