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Tiger Woods plays his shot from the 15th tee during the first round of the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Course on Thursday. Image Credit: AFP

Miami: Tiger Woods struggled late to fire a three-over par 75 on Thursday in the opening round of the Hero World Challenge, his first competitive round since the Masters last April.

The 15-time major winner followed birdies with bogeys three times in the first 12 holes at Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas before closing with a double bogey at 15, bogeys at 16 and 17 and a par at the 18th hole.

“I made a lot of shots. I don’t think I got a lot out of it,” Woods said. “I was rusty, I didn’t have my feels and conditions were tough early.

Two share the lead

“I kind of hung through there and I did not finish off my round the way I needed to and consequently it kind of went sideways at the end.”

Woods, who said he was curious how he would play after undergoing right ankle surgery last April, found six of 13 fairways and 10 of 18 greens in regulation while making 30 putts.

While Woods stood 18th in the field of 20, Americans Brian Harman and Tony Finau shared the lead with 67s and three-time major winner Jordan Spieth was another stroke adrift.

Lack of commitment

Woods, who turns 48 on December 30, has struggled since suffering severe leg injuries in a 2021 car crash but says he feels well enough to play once a month in 2024.

He blamed his late struggles on a lack of commitment to his shots.

“The middle part of my round it was just a lack of commitment and it kind of carried over into some of the final holes,” Woods said.

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Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas shake hands on the 18th hole after the first round. Image Credit: AFP

“Didn’t commit over some of the shots. I was kind of squirrelly on whether or not I should hit this shot at this height, this trajectory, the wind is puffing up or it’s not or 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.

Physically taxing

“It was a lack of commitment to what I was doing and feeling. I’ve got to do a better job of it.”

Woods appeared to move well across the layout but admitted he was taxed physically by the end of the round.

“I’m a little bit sore, that’s for sure,” Woods said. “We’ve got some stuff to do tonight to get ready for tomorrow. Get back in the gym and get right after it tomorrow and hopefully post a better number.”

Asked exactly where he was sore, Woods replied, “Everywhere.”

“My leg, my back, my neck, just from playing, hitting shots and trying to hold off shots,” Woods said. “It’s just different at game speed, too. Game speed’s a lot different than at home speed.”

Mentally rusty

Woods was hungry to get back into competition, even at a 20-player invitational rather than a US PGA Tour event.

“I felt like I was ready to compete and play. I hit it solid most of the day,” Woods 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.”

Woods birdied the par-5 third before a bogey at the fourth then birdied the par-3 fifth before a bogey at the par-5 sixth and birdied the par-5 11th before a bogey at the par-3 12th, then made a birdie at 14 before his closing woes.

“I got off to a decent start. I didn’t play the par-5s all that well,” Woods said. “Now I know mentally what I need to do better.

“Physically I knew I was going to be OK. Mentally, I was really rusty and made a lot of errors in the mind that normally I don’t make.”