Tiger Woods returns to the Hero World Challenge with a sloppy finish of 75

Tiger Woods held up well Thursday in his first tournament in eight months, except for a late limp that was more about his golf than his fused right ankle.

Woods held his own at the Hero World Challenge until a double bogey from a bush on the par-5 15th, followed by two more bogeys. The result was a 3-over 75, eight shots off the lead and one score better than only two players in the 20-man field at Albany.

Asked what he got out of his round, Woods laughed and said, “Hit a lot of shots.”

British Open champion Brian Herman and Tony Finau led the way with 5-under 67s, one shot ahead of Jordan Spieth, who was as entertaining as ever. Spieth made just five pars and went a stretch of 10 holes without one until the final hole.

But this day was all about Woods, as it usually is whenever he plays, and especially when he's been away for so long. He expected to be rusty, and it finally shows.

“I had no feelings,” Woods said. “The conditions were tough early on. I didn't finish the round the way I needed to. I kind of went off at the end.”

He was 1 under for the round through 14 holes when he pulled his tee shot left into a bush. He mulled over his options before deciding whether to punch it toward the fairway or even a bunker, even though he could only get the club back a foot or so.

Wood mostly holds the ground and advances only a few feet. He hits his third shot back onto the fairway and then lands about 40 yards short of the green. He pitched 10 feet to miss the bogey putt.

He found a fairway bunker off the tee on the difficult 16th, came up short of the green and hit a weak pitch to 20 feet that led to the bogey. Then, he three-putted the par-3 17th from 45 feet.

Woods wasn't the only player struggling to make his comeback. Will Zalatoris had back surgery shortly after withdrawing from the Masters. He had three double bogeys and a bogey spanning four holes and capped off with another bogey for an 81.

Woods blamed his mistakes on a lack of commitment that came from a lack of play. Instinct gave way to thinking about many elements as he began to swing.

“Should I do it or not? By then I'm pulling the trigger,” he said. “I really shouldn't have pulled the trigger. Hitting a bad shot. I kept doing it over and over again. There was a lack of commitment to what I was doing and feeling. I had to do a better job of it.”

He also said he was very sore and would resume the process he has come to know so well — recovery in the evening, returning to the gym to prepare his body before the next round.

He had no regrets about playing in the Masters for the first time since Saturday. He didn't finish the rain-delayed third round in a cold April at Augusta and then underwent fusion surgery on his right ankle a few weeks later.

“I wanted to compete, I wanted to play. I felt like I was ready to compete and play,” Woods said. “I hit it hard most of the day. Like I said, I usually didn't do what I didn't do mentally and I had to.”

Reporting by the Associated Press.

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