Woods shoots three-under-par 69 after nine months out
|Hero World Challenge, first round|
|-6 T Fleetwood (Eng); -5 R Fowler (US), M Kuchar (US); -4 J Rose (Eng), K Chappell (US), D Johnson (US), J Spieth (US); -3 T Woods (US), J Thomas (US), C Hoffman (US), F Molinari (Ita)|
Fourteen-time major winner Tiger Woods shot a three-under-par 69 as he returned at the Hero World Challenge following nine months out injured.
The American, 41, has had multiple back operations in recent years and was forced to withdraw from February’s Dubai Desert Classic with back spasms.
In September, he said he might never return to competitive action.
He shot five birdies and two bogeys to trail England’s Tommy Fleetwood by three shots in the Bahamas.
“I didn’t know what I could do,” Woods said. “I’ve been playing a lot of holes at home but it’s different when you are in a tournament. I had a lot of adrenaline going and I had to dial it back a bit.
“Those are the internal struggles I haven’t been through in a while. To come out here and score like I did was nice. It was fun to be part of a scorecard again.”
Woods is seeking his first tournament win since 2013, and has not won a major since 2008.
The 18-strong invitational tournament, which benefits Woods’ charitable foundation, also includes world number one Dustin Johnson, second-ranked Jordan Spieth and world number three Justin Thomas.
Rustiness and reminders from Woods
Woods, who is ranked 1,199th in the world, began as an outsider for an ‘unofficial’ event which offers world ranking points.
He came close to birdies on the opening two holes, twice missing from 12 feet, but two-putted from 45 feet on the third to pick up his first shot of the day.
Further success came on the fourth, when Woods recovered from a fluffed chip to rescue his par from 15 feet, and a birdie from 25 feet on the eighth took him to two under.
That was cancelled out by a bogey on nine, but further birdies on 10, 13 and 14 thrust him into contention before a wild tee shot on 15 led to a second bogey of the day.
There were no such concerns for Order of Merit winner Fleetwood.
The Englishman, who will stay on in the Bahamas to get married next week, carded six birdies in a flawless round to claim a one-shot lead over Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar.
Justin Rose, Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Kevin Chappell are a further shot back on four under.
“I hit it really nice, drove it well and was solid on the greens,” Fleetwood said. “I felt comfortable with my swing from the get-go and bogey-free is always good.
“It’s a great place and tournament to end the year on and a great occasion to end the year on. We’re just having a really good time.”
BBC Sport golf correspondent Iain Carter
This was a highly encouraging return. Woods’ speed through the ball was very impressive and there was some imperious ball-striking.
His swing puts less stress on his back, through a greater turn of the hips, and it looks a robust action.
Two duffed pitches suggest frailty in his short game, but these are very early days and the Albany green aprons dictate the need for precise hits.
Woods has every reason to be delighted with these initial steps in his latest comeback.