Tiger fires 3-under 69, 3 shots off lead in return

Tiger Woods shot a 3-under 69 in his first round of competitive golf in 301 days on Thursday, and is three shots behind leader Tommy Fleetwood after the opening round of the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.

Woods carded five birdies against a pair of bogeys in a very solid round that could have been much better. A pair of chunked chip shots failed to reach the green and he went 1-over on the Albany course’s five par-5s.

“For me, I thought I did great,” Woods said with a chuckle after the round. “I hadn’t played for a while after some of the difficulties I’ve been through. To come out here and score like I did, that was nice.

“It was fun to get out there and actually be part of a scorecard again.”

Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar both got up-and-down from off the green on the 18th hole and salvage par to post 5-under rounds of 67. Top-ranked Dustin Johnson is another shot off the lead along with Kevin Chappell, Justin Rose and Jordan Spieth.

Woods was credited with hitting seven of 13 fairways, but was solid on all but two swings with his driver during the opening round. He picked up his first birdie on the third hole and another on the eighth before a bogey on the ninth hole dropped him back to 1-under at the turn.

Woods rebounded with three birdies in a five-hole stretch before sending his drive on the par-5 15th well right. He ended up taking a drop and had to scramble for bogey. Woods closed with a pair of pars.

“I didn’t know what I could do,” he said. “I’ve been playing golf, I’ve been playing a lot of golf at home, but it’s different when you have to tee it up in a tournament.

“I had a lot of adrenaline there. I was the ball a little bit longer than I normally do and I had to dial it back a little bit. Those are the internal struggles that I just haven’t been through in a while.”

Fleetwood, who will get married on Tuesday, carded a bogey-free round that included five birdies. He said his swing is in excellent shape as he plays his sixth consecutive week of competitive golf.

“I hit it really nice … it was just a good day,” Fleetwood said. “I felt comfortable with my swing from the get go, and I hit a lot of good shots.

“You’re always moving forward when you’re bogey-free.”

NOTES:¬†Woods’ playing partner, Justin Thomas, also finished at 3-under after his birdie putt on the 18th hole lipped out. … Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama opened with two bogies in his first three holes and was 3-over through 13 holes before reeling off four consecutive birdies to finish at 1-under. … The two-player groups for this week’s 18-player event are re-paired after each round. Fleetwood and Fowler will be paired in the final group Friday.

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