Albany, Bahamas, December 2023.

The Open champion, Brian Harman, made a strong debut at the Hero World Challenge. First off the blocks he came back with a 5-under 67, which was matched by Tony Finau. The two were co-leaders after the first day.

Playing for the first time in almost eight months since the end of the second round of the Augusta National, Woods admitted to ‘soreness’ all over after his 3-over 75. For the first 14 holes, he was still in red numbers at 1-under. Then came trouble and he crashed to 3-over. Yet, he seemed to have seen a few things to work on and get better with each step, which at times indicated a limp.

Considering all he has been through, he showed enough to suggest a good meaningful comeback. Jostling for attention with the flashes of class was lot of rust and signs that the mind and the body were not in sync. He seemed to tire and struggle in the closing stages, but still smiled and hugged Justin Thomas at the end of 18 holes in conditions that were not very easy.

Harman may not have found many greens, but he scrambled really well. He said, “Yeah, I think it’s a really tough golf course. The wind was blowing. I got out of position a few times, made some really nice up-and-downs. I’m going to go hit a few, see if I can tighten my iron game up a little bit. Putted nicely other than the bogey on the last, pretty good.”

On his scrambling, he said, “Last time I played the RSM, my short game wasn’t very good, so I worked a little bit on it in the couple weeks. Glad that I chipped a couple close.”

Finau made gains on the first and the third holes, but gave one of them on the tenth. Then in a span of five holes, he picked four birdies to surge to the top.

He said, “That was a nice start. I made some crucial par saves, I would say. I made a lot of six, seven footers whether it was after a chip or a bad first putt. That just kind of kept the momentum throughout the round.”

Jordan Spieth rode a roller-coaster with two eagles, six birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey. His final tally of 4-under put him one behind Harman and Finau.

Woods was doing fine, but following up on each of his birdies with an immediate bogey. That happened three times but a fourth birdie on the 14th had him at 1-under for the fourth time. He was never better than 1-under, but still under par after 14. Then a double bogey on the Par-5 15th and two more bogeys on the next two holes. He closed with a birdie try from 25 feet and then tapped for par.

Woods gave away four shots in a span of three holes, starting the 15th. A wayward left tee shot landed under a large clump of bushes. He stabbed at it and moved it only a foot and lost a shot. He even toyed with the idea of a left-handed attempt but then punched it backwards into the fairway.

The third shot, a 3-wood, came short and an average pitch left him a 12-foot bogey putt, which he missed for a double-bogey. From one-under he went to 1-over.On 16 he missed the green in regulation and missed a 20-footer for par and on the Par-3 17th, he found the green, but was 50-plus feet away for. He went six feet past and missed the comeback putt.

The obvious question was about how he felt after the round? And, where did he feel sore? Woods shot back, “Everywhere”.

The persistent question, Where is the most? “My leg, my back, my neck. Just from playing, hitting shots and trying to hold off shots. It’s just different at game speed, too.”

He said, “I’m sore, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve got some work to do tonight. Tomorrow (we) get back in the gym and activate and get ready for it. Hopefully hit some better shots. And now I know mentally what I need to do better. I think that’s something that 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.”

Overall, summing up, he said, “Yeah, you know, I got off to a decent start. I didn’t play the par 5s particularly well all day. I had really a lack of commitment through most of the middle part of my round and finishing. I just didn’t quite commit to what I was doing and feeling.”Woods’ playing partner and friend, Justin Thomas, got a big hug at the end of the round, in which Thomas rallied from 3-over after four to finish 2-under.Spieth describing his round said, “Yeah, it was an electric factory out there, for sure. Some rusty putting, a couple toe balls and then a lot of really, really good stuff. So all in all I would have probably signed for 4 under when I was warming up today, I just didn’t think I’d get there this way.”  He had just five pars in 18 holes.

Cameron Young, Scottie Scheffler, Collin Morikawa and max Homa brought in 3-under 69 each for tied fourth. Both had eventful rounds. Young had six birdies against one bogey and one double, while Scheffler, trying to better his second place finishes in the last two editions, had six birdies and three bogeys, as did Homa and Morikawa.

Two-time defending champion Viktor Hovland had three birdies in a row from fifth and a fourth one on 14th, but he also gave away three bogeys and a double on Par-3 17th for a 73. It was his first round above 70 in the Hero World Challenge, which he has won in both his previous starts.

ROUND 2 PAIRINGS: From Tee 1:

10:51 am: Wyndham Clark (76) and Will Zalatoris (81)

11:02 am: Rickie Fowler (74) and Tiger Woods (75);

11:13 am: Justin Rose (72) and Viktor Hovland (73);

11:24 am: Sepp Straka (72) and Keegan Bradley (72);

11:35 am: Sam Burns (71) and Jason Day (71);

11:46 am: Justin Thomas (70) and Lucas Glover (71);

11:57 am: Max Homa (69) and Matt Fitzpatrick (70);

12:08 am: Scottie Scheffler (69) and Collin Morikawa (69);

12:19 am: Jordan Spieth (68) and Cameron Young (69);

12:30: Brian Harman (67) and Tony Finau (67)