Albany (The Bahamas): Soon-to-be groom Tommy Fleetwood set the early pace at the Hero World Challenge here on Thursday, firing a six-under 66 on Day One in trying and windy conditions at the Albany golf course. The Englishman — making his first appearance at the event — turned in a bogey free card with six birdies, and led Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar by one stroke.
World No.1 Dustin Johnson, Kevin Chappell, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose were tied for fourth at four-under. Chappell held the lead at five-under for a while before dropping to 4-under as Fleetwood went past him. All eyes though, as expected, were on Tiger Woods and the tournament host gave glimpses of a strong return to competitive golf putting up a sturdy show on the back nine for a day’s card of three-under 69 at tied eighth, three shots off the leader. Justin Thomas, Charley Hoffman and Francesco Molinari shot identical scores to be tied alongside Woods.
Spectators made a beeline as Woods teed off at 12:05 pm local time while fellow players kept asking for regular updates on the 41-year-old’s progress. In his first start in 10 months and only the fourth in two years following four back surgeries, the former world no. 1 didn’t seem to have issues with his back and moved with his ease.
His began with a par and after coming close on the opening two holes, picked up his first birdie of the day on the par-five third. A few more pars followed as Woods was all business — almost expressionless and clearly enjoying his return after 10 months — before providing a peek into his famous fist-pump on the par-3 eighth.
Woods grabbed his second birdie with a stunning 20-foot putt evoking loud applause, that even forced Fowler – playing almost a hundred yards away – to take notice. It was not a smooth ride though all the way as Woods soon found out. He struggled with his chip shots, often faltering on the par 5s, that saw him placed at 1-under after the first nine holes....