February 24, 2024

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Tiger Woods returns to golf at Hero World Challenge: What was he like?

Tiger Woods returns to golf at Hero World Challenge: What was he like?

Tiger Woods returned to golf on Thursday, playing in his first tournament since withdrawing from the Masters in April.

At Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas during the first round of the World Champion Challenge, Woods shot a 3-over 75 after playing alongside Justin Thomas. Woods finished with four birdies, seven pars and three bogeys.

Woods has come a long way since a car accident in February 2021 that left him with serious leg injuries and difficulty walking while recovering. In February 2022, Woods was able to walk on a treadmill, but said he had a “long way to go” until he could walk the curves of the golf course.

Nearly a year later, Woods withdrew from the 2023 Masters, citing plantar fasciitis. It was the second time in 12 months that Woods had withdrawn from a major championship after withdrawing from the 2022 PGA Championship after three rounds. On April 19, Woods underwent a “subtalar fusion” procedure on his ankle to address post-traumatic arthritis resulting from a previous fracture.

What’s the woods like?

The overall answer is that Woods hit the ball well and looked more comfortable walking than he has in other matches since the collapse of 2021. He drove the ball far and very reliably, even hitting 177 mph off the tee. He hit his irons well. The problems on his tour really stemmed from not having practiced or played 18 holes in months. His short game was shaky all day. He made few mental errors, often exacerbating the occasional one. “I guess you take it for granted, when you play all the time… Instead of answering it, I was thinking about doing it,” he agreed. These are generally the parts of Woods’ game that will return for more iterations.

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The key was for Woods to look healthy, relatively speaking, and with his body looking like he could hit the shots. — Brody Miller, Golf Staff Writer

Woods was having fun, too

The other element this week is that Woods looks comfortable. He had his good friend and business partner Rob McNamara accompanying him, and was paired with Thomas, a close friend, and caddie Jim “Bones” McKay. When he hit a 48-foot birdie putt on 11, he joked, “Great read, Robbie!” Because McNamara wasn’t helping with reading, and he was laughing so hard all the way to the hole. When the tour was over, he smiled widely as he hugged Thomas.

Sure, Woods is a competitor and he got really angry when he tried to throw a ball out of a bush and the ball only moved one foot, but this was different. Woods’ vibe in 2022 and 2023 was one of intensity and focus, mentally preparing his body to get through each round. Yes, Woods said he was sore “all over the place” Thursday, but he seemed more at peace. — Miller

Required reading

(Photo: Mike Erman/Getty Images)