Christmas came early for golf fans around the world on Thursday, as Tiger Woods made his much anticipated return to the game with a 12:05 p.m. ET tee time at Albany in the Bahamas for the Hero World Challenge.
The early takeaway? Woods was pretty darn impressive after 301 days away. He carded a 3-under 69 -- three behind leader Tommy Fleetwood -- that included five birdies and two bogeys. His driver looked solid, but his short game left something to be desired, evidenced by a couple of chunked chips.
All in all, though, he played great and didn't seem to be in any pain along the way -- an encouraging first step.
Here's a chronological recap of Tiger's day at Albany, with plenty of fun social media ramblings mixed in:
Woods, the 14-time major winner, could not have asked for a better start, ripping a driver and having it settle in the fairway on No. 1... 30 yards ahead of playing partner Justin Thomas.
This was his approach from 99 yards out:
Woods would just miss the birdie putt, but it was a nice, solid start.
After a ho-hum par on the par-3 second hole, Woods ripped a drive at the par-5 third, splitting the middle of the fairway. From 260 yards out, Woods laced a beautiful 2 iron -- which he encouraged to, "Be good" -- and found the middle of the green to set up a 25-foot eagle try.
The eagle putt just missed, but he tapped in for his first birdie of the day to get to 1 under.
How about these stats?
Tiger missed his first fairway of the day at the par-4 fourth hole, but just barely. It rolled into some light rough to the right of the fairway, but nothing that would cause any type of trouble for his approach.
With a pitching wedge from 157 yards out, Woods came up just short of the green -- his first missed green of the day and a chance for everyone to see how his short game is looking...
... It was a chunk. Woods caught the ground before he hit the ball and was still off the green in three shots. From 18 feet away, however, Woods knocked down the putt and gave his first fist pump.
On the par-3 fifth hole, Woods hung a 7-iron out to the right from 169 yards and left himself a testy 30-footer for birdie.
Woods hit an aggressive birdie putt, but it skated by the left side of the hole. He would make the 4-footer coming back for par to stay at 1 under.
With a driver on the long, par-5 sixth hole -- playing into the wind -- Woods left his tee shot out to the right and found the waste area. No problem, though. Woods struck the second shot well and had 90 yards left for his third shot from the middle of the fairway.
<blockquote class="twitter-video" data-lang="en"><p lang="in" dir="ltr">Tidy. <a href="https://t.co/ph6zAPRv1S">pic.twitter.com/ph6zAPRv1S</a></p>— Ben Everill (@BEverillPGATOUR) <a href="https://twitter.com/BEverillPGATOUR/status/936296624522792961?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 30, 2017</a></blockquote>
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A touchy third shot, Woods took a little something off his 56-degree wedge and sent it well past the hole before sucking it back to pin high and about 15 feet away for birdie.
Another solid stroke for Woods, but it lipped out and he settled for par to stay at 1 under.
At the 340-yard, par-4 seventh hole, Tiger pulled driver and smoked it. It was one of those vintage Tiger rip and recoil-type drives. But it came up just short in a greenside bunker.
Tiger's bunker shot came out with a little more steam than he would have liked and he left himself a long birdie try. Woods missed the putt on the low side of the hole, but converted the par putt and remained 1 under.
The 187-yard, par-3 eighth hole is where Tiger made more noise. His tee shot found the front edge of the green, but he buried the 25-footer for his second birdie of the day to get to 2 under.
Woods hit driver on the 603-yard, par-5 ninth hole and piped it right down the middle.
And in case you were wondering about Tiger's swing...
Using a 3-wood from 282 yards out, Woods nuked his shot coming up just short of the green. With a touchy third shot from about 6 yards off the green, Woods again chunks it and leaves it short of the green.
On his fourth shot from the fringe -- with a putter -- Woods sent the ball cruising 12 feet past the hole. He would two-putt for his first bogey of the day to drop back to 1 under. Huge missed opportunity.
Electing to take a 3-wood off the tee at the par-4 10th hole, Tiger again found the middle of the fairway. With a knockdown 7-iron approach, he nestled the ball up to within 12 feet of the hole. He knocked down the putt for a nice, bounce-back birdie to get back to 2 under.
A driver off the tee at the par-5 11th and Tiger ripped another one down the center of the fairway. Woods had 248 yards left for his second shot and fanned a 3-iron to short-side himself.
Faced with another touchy pitch shot -- this time over a bunker -- Tiger seemed determined not to chunk it again and instead sent it well past the hole leaving a 30 footer for birdie.
Woods again blew his first putt past the hole and had a lot of work left -- from about 8 feet -- for par. And he knocked it in to stay at 2 under through 11 holes.
With a 6-iron from the tee 201 yards away at the par-3 12th hole, Woods airmailed the green and went into the rough.
From there, Woods -- thanks in part to a fluffy lie -- hit his best chip shot of the day to that point and cozied the ball up to 5 feet. He made the par to remain 2 under through 12 holes.
One thing was certain on Thursday -- Tiger wasn't dialing it back at all with his driver. He cranked another one at the par-4 13th hole that ran just off the fairway. With a wedge from 113 yards, Woods knocked his approach to 20 feet in the middle of the green.
Woods knocked in the putt for his fourth birdie of the day to get it to 3 under, putting him just two off the lead at the time.
It was another perfect drive on the 14th hole. With a short approach from 88 yards, Woods stuffed it to 2 feet and knocked down the birdie putt to get to 4 under and make it two birdies in a row... and he pulled to within one shot of the lead.
Uh-oh. Woods found trouble off the par-5 15th tee, pushing his tee shot well right into the dunes. He hit a provisional shot that also went a little right, but did find the fairway.
Woods found his ball in the junk, but had to take a drop for an unplayable lie (since the ball was found the initial provisional tee shot was no longer an option).
Woods hit a solid recovery to get the ball back into the fairway despite a plugged lie from his drop. With a blind fourth shot, Woods hit a decent approach about 20 feet left of the flag.
It was a 2-putt bogey -- his second bogey of the day -- and Woods dropped back to 3 under. Stunningly, he played the five par 5s in 1 over Thursday.
Over at the par-4 16th hole, Woods missed the fairway to the right and the ball settled into the waste area. From there, he hit a terrific approach shot to the green, within 12 feet of the hole and a chance for his second bounce-back birdie of the day.
Woods just missed the birdie try on the right edge and settled for a par to stay at 3 under.
The 17th hole -- the final par 3 at Albany -- played at 155 yards on Thursday. Woods hit a 9-iron that looked to be all over the flagstick, but it came up just short of the green.
With a wedge from just off the green, Woods bellied the the club and came up inches short for birdie. He made par and remained at 3 under.
Finally, at the par-4 18th, Woods again played driver off the tee and found the fairway. He played the same hole in 6-over par a year ago.
On his approach shot, Woods got a hard bounce left on the green and the ball came a couple of inches from nestling up between the fringe and the rough. It provided one last short game test in Round 1 for Tiger.
Woods got aggressive with his chip and it went well past the hole. But, he managed to make the comebacker for a par and a solid 3-under 69 start.