NASSAU, Bahamas — Tiger Woods generally likes an early tee time, sometimes the earlier the better. But not when it means he is going off first because his position is near last.
Woods beat just one player on Thursday in the opening round of the Hero World Challenge, his annual tournament that funds his foundation, shooting a 1-over 73 that was better than only Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama. The two will tee off first for Friday’s second round at 11:10 a.m.
“I didn’t quite feel comfortable with my game today even though I drove it great,” said Woods, who trails tournament leaders Patrick Reed and Patrick Cantlay by eight shots. “It was definitely reflective in my scoring today. I didn’t quite feel comfortable and just didn’t quite hit the ball close enough or give myself a lot of looks at it.”
Woods, 42, was making highly anticipated comebacks from injury and surgery in each of the past two years in the Bahamas but has settled into a more traditional role this time.
Ranked 13th in the world and coming off his 80th PGA Tour victory in his last official start on the PGA Tour, Woods seemed to be lacking some intensity. Last week when he lost to Phil Mickelson in their 18-hole “match” in Las Vegas, he appeared rusty, some traits that were apparent Thursday.
Although Woods hit 12 of 13 fairways and 14 of 18 greens, he took 31 putts. And he also got into trouble on the par-3 12th, where an awkward chip from near a hazard came up short and rolled back in. He made a triple-bogey 6. From there, he played the remaining six holes in 2 under par. He made four birdies and two bogeys in the round in addition to the triple.
Reed, the reigning Masters champion, is coming off a busy stretch in which he played the past two weeks in European Tour events in Dubai and Hong Kong. It’s a 13-hour time difference from Hong Kong, where Reed tied for 45th on Sunday. He was tied for second at the season-ending European Tour event in Dubai two weeks ago.
Despite all the travel, Reed said he did not consider skipping the 18-player unofficial event.
“I love the place, I love the golf course, and any way to support Tiger as well as support the Hero World Challenge is something I want to do. I’ve always wanted to make it into the event, and wanted to come out and play because it’s a fun spot. It’s the last event of the year, an relaxing-type event. And it allows you to kind of get in that mode of seeing how your game is for the four weeks you’re going to have off until (the next event in) Hawaii.”
Reed and Cantlay are three shots ahead of Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson. Justin Rose, who is another stroke back after a 69, has a chance to return to No. 1 in the world this week and move ahead of Brooks Koepka if he finishes no worse than in a three-way tie for second.
Woods, who was 1,199th in the world a year ago at this time, has a chance to return to the top 10 in the world for the first time in more than four years. He’d need no worse than a tie for seventh in order to get back to at least 10th. He is three shots back of that position.