Tiger Woods briefly grabbed the lead twice on Friday before two late bogies dropped him to five shots off the lead of 12-under held by Charley Hoffman after two rounds of the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
Woods got off to a hot start with birdies on three of his first four holes on the Albany course, and he grabbed the lead for the first time with an eagle on the par-5 ninth hole. He made the turn with a 4-under 31 to reach 8-under for the tournament. After Hoffman caught him on the leaderboard, Woods rolled in another birdie on the 11th to grab the lead again.
However, Woods’ round stalled out with a bogey on the par-3 12th hole. He then recorded five consecutive pars before closing with another bogey to card a 4-under 68.
“I had a difficult time all day with my speed on the greens,” Woods said. “They seemed to be about a foot faster. They were dry, thy were rolling out, and I air-mailed a few of them well past the hole. I really did struggle with my speed.”
No one on the course was hotter than Hoffman, who led the PGA Tour in total birdies during the 2016-17 season. In a 9-under round of 63 that saw Hoffman card only three pars, he opened with five birdies on his first seven holes. He erased a bogey on No. 8 with another birdie to match Woods’ 5-under 31 at the turn, playing in the group behind Woods and Henrik Stenson.
“It’s pretty special to be out here and seeing Tiger making eagles and birdies … and hopefully in contention on Sunday.”
Hoffman followed a birdie on No. 11 with a pair of bogeys. Refusing to let his round unravel, Hoffman closed the day with five consecutive birdies to create separation from the field. He carded 12 birdies in the second round after shooting a 3-under 69 on Thursday.
“Keep making putts. If I make putts I’m usually in contention,” Hoffman said of what he needs to do over the weekend. “Putter feels great, the game feels like it’s in a pretty good spot.”
Jordan Spieth shot a 5-under 67 on Friday to reach 9-under for the tournament and is in a tie for second place with Tommy Fleetwood. Speith will be in the final group with Hoffman on Saturday. Justin Rose is in solo fourth place at 8-under.
Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama rebounded from an opening-round 71 to shoot a 7-under 66 on Friday and is tied for fifth place with Woods, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and Francesco Molinari. After standing 3-over through his first 13 holes of the tournament, Matsuyama is 10-under over his past 23 holes.
While Hoffman holds the lead in the 18-player field, all eyes will continue to be on Woods over the weekend. Playing in his first competitive tournament since February and seven months after fusion surgery, Woods has passed the first hurdle of returning to the course and showing he can compete. Now it’s about completing a four-round tournament and continuing to fine-tune his game.
“Proved that the surgery was successful, the rehab has been fantastic,” he said of what he has taken away from the first two rounds. “And now I’ve got a chance to go out there and play competitive golf again.”
Woods was also quick to temper expectations following his first 36 holes.
“I’m just getting back, I still have a long way to go,” he said. “That’s going to time, a lot more practice, a lot more training, and more tournaments.”