TIGER Woods was upbeat after a 1-over-par 73 despite finishing with two double bogeys in his last three holes in his first competitive round for nearly 16 months.
The former World Number One was the centre of the golf world’s attention overnight when he teed off in the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
Woods was asked about the positives from a round that could hardly have seen a more disappointing finish
And said he as delighted with how quickly he “fell into the competitive flow” at the Albany Golf and Beach Resort.
“I could feel the round by the time I hit my tee shot on the second hole,” Woods, said.
“I’d already gotten into the flow of the round.
“That’s something for me when I’ve taken layoffs, and taken breaks, that’s been hard because I cannot find the feel of the round.
TIGER WOODS' INCREDIBLE CAREER:
“To be missing from the field of play for 15 or 16 months (and) get it (the feel) on the second hole was nice.”
What wasn’t nice was Woods’ back nine after an impressive outward journey which saw him post four birdies in the first eight holes to momentarily take a share of the lead.
But a disastrous back nine halted his momentum, the 14 time major winner limping home in 40 strokes for a 1-over 73.
He is nine shots off the first round leader, J.B. Holmes, who shot 64 in what is essentially an 18-man exhibition with no cut.
Woods is second to last after 18 holes, the injured Justin Rose the only player to shoot higher thanks to a bad back.
A lone back nine birdie was offset by the two doubles and a frustrating bogey at the par-5 11th. Woods also dropped a shot at the par-5 ninth.
But it was at the 16th where things really began to unravel.
After hitting a great drive down the fairway, his second went left into bushes and he could only chip out backwards onto the fairway from the tussock of grass in which his ball had finished.
At 18 his drive veered left into the water and he was forced to take a drop.
With the ball well above his feet and sitting down in the Bermuda rough he could not reach the green with his third.
His pitch cannoned into the base of the flagstick and finished a good 12-15 feet from the cup from where he could only two putt for his six.
The general consensus after the most anticipated round in recent memory, though, was that Woods hit his iron shots extremely well for well for most of the day though missed a lot of drives left.
His putting was passable and his short game a mixture of good and bad.
“When you think about it, I hit the ball in three bushes and (had) a water ball today,” Woods offered in his own analysis.
“It could have been something really good today. I got off to a nice solid start and (then) made a few mistakes, I did not play the par fives very well in the middle part of the round, and consequently got it going the wrong way.
“I had some awkward shots. If you are driving it great here, you can take advantage of this golf course.
“You can tear it apart. But if you’re not, there’s some bushes and some rocks and you can go sideways.
“All in all I felt pretty good and I’m looking forward to another three more days.”
Woods has been sidelined for 15 months due to back-related issues and planned to return at last month's PGA Tour's Safeway Open in California.
However, he withdrew three days before the opening round, saying his game was not sharp enough.
The 14-time major champion has not played on the PGA Tour since August 2015, having undergone surgeries in September and again in October of that year due to ongoing back problems.
The greatest player of his generation and arguably of all time, he has not won a tournament anywhere since 2013 and his title drought in the major championships dates back to 2008.
Woods, who has fallen to 898th in the world, said it had been a wise decision not to rush his return.
Now healthy again, the big question is how long it will take him to regain his sharpness and the magic that saw him dominate the sporting world for almost 20 years.
MARC LEISHMAN PUTTING FAMILY FIRST: