After Tiger Woods posted a three-under 69 in his first round back in nearly a year, it was time for everyone to collectively take a deep breath. Doing it on Thursday is one thing, backing it up over the next three days is a different animal. But so far, Woods appears up to the challenge, following his 69 with a four-under 68 on Friday at the Albany Resort in the Bahamas. The 14-time major champion heads into the weekend at seven-under 137, five shots off Charley Hoffman's lead at the Hero World Challenge.
Woods couldn't have asked for a better start, making birdie at the par-4 first hole with relative ease. He added birdies at the par-5 third and par-4 fourth, and, for a moment, grabbed a share of the lead at six under. After four straight pars, Tiger provided a vintage performance at the par-5 ninth, crushing a drive and a 3-wood to within 20 feet. He then converted the eagle to take the solo lead, sending social media into mass-hysteria. The front nine, five-under 31 looked every bit like the Tiger of old.
While he was able to get as high as nine under overall with a birdie at the 11th, the back nine wasn't nearly as clean. A three-putt bogey at the par-3 12th robbed him of the momentum, and he would finish with five pars and a bogey at the 18th for a 68.
"After that 31 on the front nine, I could have gotten a few more on the back," Woods said. "I had a difficult time all day with my speed on the greens. They seemed to be a foot faster, they were dry, rolling out and I airmailed a few of them well past the hole."
He certainly struggled with the putter, but still only needed 26 putts on the day. The good news is that Woods appears to be feeling good, and ready to put together two more solid rounds.
"I proved that surgery was successful, the rehab has been fantastic and now I've got a chance to go out there and play competitive golf again."
As for potentially having a chance to win his sixth Hero World Challenge and be all the way "back," Tiger is still doing a good job of managing expectations.
"I've still got a long way to go. This is going to take time, a lot more practice, a lot more training and more tournaments."
Believe it or not, there are 17 other players in the field this week, none of whom are playing better than Hoffman, who posted a nine-under 63 on Friday to get to 12-under 132 for the week. After starting the opening round two over through five holes, the four-time tour winner has made 17 birdies, including five straight to close out his second round. He leads by three over Jordan Spieth and Tommy Fleetwood, but knows who is lurking down the leader board.
"It's nice to see (Tiger) again," Hoffman said. "I played with Justin (Thomas) and he's never played with Tiger, he's never heard the roars he produces out here. So it's pretty special to be out here and see Tiger making eagles and birdies, and hopefully in contention on Sunday."
Along with Hoffman, Tiger will have some major competition over the weekend in Spieth and Fleetwood, who are tied for second at nine-under 135. Spieth, who tied for sixth at the 2016 Hero World Challenge, posted a five-under 67 that featured seven birdies and two bogeys, while Fleetwood carded a more colorful three-under 69 with seven birdies, two bogeys and one double bogey.
Justin Rose sits in solo fourth at eight-under 136 after posting a four-under 68. Hideki Matsuyama, Francesco Molinari, Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler are tied with Woods at seven under.