Tiger gets a big boost, then sags

Tiger Woods hits from a bunker onto the 14th green during the first round at the Hero World Challenge golf tournament, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Nassau, Bahamas. Woods is one-over-par for the round. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

NASSAU, Bahamas (AP) — Even with the wind at his back, Tiger Woods figured only a perfect 5-iron from 231 yards would reach the green. Adding to this challenge was he had taken only four full swings in competition over the past 466 days.

He posed over the swing until he saw it land 233 yards away, bouncing over the third green at Albany Golf Club. A pitch-and-run and a tap-in later, he had his birdie and was on his way Thursday in his return to golf at the Hero World Challenge.

“To hit it that flush that early in the round, that felt good, gave me a little confidence,” Woods said. “I had to step on it to get it there, and I did. To find the feel of the round that quick, that felt good.”

Just like that, he felt as if he hadn’t been away for the last 15 months. He just couldn’t get off the course without a few mistakes costing him a lot of strokes.

Woods made two double bogeys over his last three holes for a 1-over 73, leaving him nine shots behind J.B. Holmes and one shot better than Justin Rose, the only player who had a worse score.

No one was sure what to expect from Woods, who took the longest break of his golfing life following a pair of back surgeries that made him wonder at times if he had played his last golf tournament. Now, all he can think about is the next round.

Here’s what he can build upon:

DRIVING: Woods hit only six of 13 fairways, though only one of them was bad enough to cause a problem. Woods pulled his tee shot into the water on the 18th, slamming his driver into the turf. All of his misses were to the left, some of them just catching the sandy waste area.

He hit plenty of good drives, particularly on the first two par 5s. On both he hit a tight draw.

CHIPPING: There remains a fascination with his short game, particularly because of how bad he was at the start of 2015 in the Phoenix Open and Torrey Pines, so bad that he took two months off to work on it.

It was a mixed bag on Thursday.

THE OUTLOOK: The score shows Woods was one of only two players who couldn’t break par. Two swings effectively cost him four shots.


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