MIAMI, United States, Dec 2 – Tiger Woods fired a four-under-par 68 to remain in contention in his comeback event at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas on Friday.
The 41-year-old superstar, playing his first tournament in nearly 10 months, vaulted up the leaderboard at the Albany Golf Club with a blistering front nine.
The 14-time-major champion was five-under for the day after posting three birdies and an eagle before the turn to go eight-under for the tournament.
However Woods’ momentum faltered on the back nine, where two bogeys saw him eventually finish the day at seven-under.
Woods has plenty of ground to make up over the weekend, however, with leader Charley Hoffman producing a stunning nine-under-par 63 to move to 12-under.
Yet Woods was satisfied with another solid day of tournament golf after spending most of the past two years sidelined with a debilitating back injury.
“I think it was successful because I shot 31 on the front nine,” Woods told reporters afterwards. “I built upon what I did yesterday. I cleaned it up.
“The only thing I struggled with was the speed of the greens. They seemed to be a foot faster.”
Woods added that he was satisfied with his fitness following spinal fusion surgery on his back in April.
“I proved that the surgery was successful and that the rehab was fantastic. I got a chance to go out there and play competitive golf again,” Woods said.
– ‘Just getting back’ –
“I’m just getting back. I’ve still got a long way to go,” added Woods, who also missed the entire 2015-2016 season.
“I felt like today I could have easily got to double digits under par. That would have put me one or two back. But I think I’m still in it.
“It’s supposed to blow a little bit harder tomorrow — if that’s the case I think a good solid round should get me up there.”
After a solid first round 69 on Thursday, Woods got off to a flying start on Friday, reeling off three birdies in the opening four holes.
His first birdie came on the first when a 96-yard approach shot landed five feet from the hole for a simple birdie putt.
On the par-five third his eagle putt from just off the green went just wide but left him with an easy birdie.
A further birdie came on the fourth, after another superb approach shot.
It got better on the par-five ninth when he made the green in two before rolling in a 15-foot eagle putt to put him into the lead at eight under.
A further birdie on the 11th put Woods at six under for the day, nine under overall but a bogey on 12 checked his progress.
Five more pars followed but on the 18th Woods’ tee-shot found the sand bordering the fairway, forcing him to hack out and leaving him with a difficult up and down to save par, which he duly failed.
Tournament leader Hoffman meanwhile tore up the course with 12 birdies and three bogeys on his way to his 63.
Hoffman said he was delighted to see Woods back in contention.
“It’s nice to see again,” Hoffman said. “It’s pretty special to be out here and see Tiger making eagles and birdies and hopefully be in contention on Sunday.”
Hoffman leads by three shots from Jordan Spieth, who carded a five-under-par 67 to move to nine under, alongside England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who carded a 69.
Justin Rose is alone on eight under, four off the lead, while Woods was joined on seven under by Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, Italy’s Francesco Molinari and Americans Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler.