Tiger Woods reported that his surgically repaired right foot and ankle held up well over the first 18 holes of the Hero World Challenge on Thursday, following the first competitive round of his most recent comeback.
The 15-time major champion was still in pain, despite this.
“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.”
Woods shot a 3-over 75 in the opening round, good for eight shots behind leaders Brian Harman and Tony Finau and good for 18th place out of 20 players, but it probably didn’t matter. or the fact that Woods appeared to run out of gas and was 4 over in the final 4 holes.
For Woods, at least, it probably mattered that he could play a competitive round of golf without having to endure the unbearable pain he went through at the Masters in April, when he had to withdraw during the third round.
Two weeks after the Masters, Woods, who turns 48 next month, underwent subtalar fusion surgery on his right ankle to treat post-traumatic arthritis brought on by injuries he sustained in a car accident outside of 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.”
Woods was out of practise for his first PGA Tour event in over seven months. On the easiest hole on the course, the par-5 15th, he made five bogeys and a double bogey. In regulation, Woods only made six of thirteen fairways and ten of eighteen greens. On approach, he gave up 2.09 strokes to the field.
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.”
Throughout the round, there were some positive moments. With his first tee shot, Woods blasted a 326-yard drive and displayed good club speed. On holes three, five, and eleven, he made birdie putts of 22 feet, 28 feet, and four and a half feet, respectively. After 14 holes, he was 1 under.
“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.”
This week, Woods will get three more chances to accomplish it. An unofficial tour event, the Hero World Challenge is a 72-hole, no-cut competition.