Woods wows for eight before Holmes steps in at Hero Challenge

Updated: Dec 05, 2016, 11:39 IST | V Krishnaswamy

For almost two hours the clock it seemed had been turned back and Tiger Woods of the old was back

Nassau, Albany: For almost two hours the clock it seemed had been turned back and Tiger Woods of the old was back. He had just teed up at the Hero World Challenge after a 466-day absence from competitive golf and was four-under for eight holes and was sharing the lead at that stage. Wow was the most common word in use at that stage among the 3,000-odd spectators littered around the desert course. And then he dropped down on the back nine with a couple of errors.

The first-round leader was J. B. Holmes, who carded an eight-under 64, with seven birdies and an eagle and one bogey, on the very first hole. Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama (65) and Dustin Johnson (66) followed him. Matt Kuchar, who was seven-under through 13th, before a double on 14th and four more pars, shot 67 and was tied fourth Henrik Stenson and Louis Oosthuizen, who had a double on 17th.

Woods is 17th among the 18 golfers, ahead of only Justin Rose, who shot a 74.

Rarely, if ever, has a single tee shot aroused as much interest as Woods’s drive at the first hole – from the public at hand; on the websites; on TV Channels. Everyone everywhere wanted to see that sharp noon when he went out with Patrick Reed, who at the end of the day was barely asked a question about his own play.

Woods went into the bunker. No problem. He came out with par and also parred second. Then on the third, he came up with a second shot on the par-5 572-yard hole. He hit it beautifully and then followed the ball’s trajectory till it reached the green and rolled back. He strode confidently, chipped it nicely to inside feet and putted out the birdie. The checkboxes were all ticked for drive; approach; chip and putt. One-under with his first birdie in 16 months.

Two more pars, one of them, which could have been a birdie followed. Then came three in a row from sixth to eighth and a familiar name, Tiger Woods, appeared as one of co-leaders alongside J.B. Holmes, Louis Oosthuizen and Matt Kuchar. They were all four-under.

The conditions were perfect and then winds picked up, just as Woods after his bogey on ninth, turned for journey back. Suddenly the magic was gone. He bogeyed 11th but with a birdie on par-5 15th, he was still three-under when he came to 16th tee.

Woods had an errant drive on par-5 ninth compounded by a way-less-than-good chip. On the back nine, he missed three fairways; landed water off 18th tee and came home in a disappointing 40, after being 33 for the front nine.

Going into water on 18th and come out with a double, where a lot of people picked birdies, must have hurt even more.

Woods admitted to mistakes and said , “I let a really good round slip away at the end.” Silly mistakes is what he called them and said, “They are mistakes I don’t normally make, but I haven’t played in a while.” A slight pause and then added, “I can clean that up.”

Playing partner, Patrick Reed, who had the best view of Woods’ return, was sought out more for the legends’ round than his own of 72.

He said, “The first eight holes he played he played really well. I was like wow, he seemed like he had complete control of what he was trying to do with the golf ball. But it's awesome to have him back. It's good to see him, for the most part, have pretty good control of the golf ball.”

Long-hitting Holmes, who was five-under for the Par-5s – only Dustin Johnson, as long a hitter as him was six-under – said really low scores were possible at this layout. “This golf course’s defense is the wind,” said Holmes, “and when it goes away, you can definitely shoot a good number.”

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