NASSAU, Bahamas — Tiger Woods opened with four birdies in seven holes. The closing stretch was another struggle Friday in the Hero World Challenge, including a putt that went off the green and into the bunker.
It added up to a 2-under 70 that left Woods 10 shots behind Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth, but still moving around just fine and slowly getting back into the groove.
But his struggles on the back nine have kept him from being closer to the lead. Woods shot 39 on the back in the opening round, and 38 on Friday despite a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th. For Woods, there wasn’t a great mystery why he wasn’t finishing better.
“Maybe because I haven’t played in a while,” he said with a laugh.
This is his first tournament since he withdrew before finishing his third round at the rain-delayed Masters, and he had ankle fusion surgery a few weeks later. Woods hasn’t finished 72 holes since the 2022 Masters.
“I’m rusty,” he said. “This golf course will bring that out of you. You can run the tables here or go the other way. Unfortunately, I haven’t finished off my rounds the way I’d like to.”
Scheffler had eight birdies on a day suited for good scoring. He lost sole possession of the lead on his final hole when he went from the rough to a waste area behind the 18th hole, his ball in a slight depression. He did well to get it out to 15 feet but missed the par putt.
“As long as you can keep it out of trouble, you’re going to play well,” Scheffler said.
Spieth had eagle putts on four holes – two of them par 4s – didn’t miss a fairway and managed a relatively boring round, at least compared with Thursday when he made only five pars. This time, he was bogey-free for a 67.
Scheffler and Spieth were at 9-under 135, one shot ahead of British Open champion Brian Harman, who shot 31 on the back nine to salvage a 69.
For Woods, the trouble again came on the par-5 15th, where he took double bogey in the first round. This time, he piped his drive and had only a 9-iron to the green. But he pulled it into a bunker, leaving little green between him and the hole, and blasted it out to 35 feet.
From there, his putt was too firm, racing by the hole, off the green and back into the bunker. He had to make a 15-footer to escape with bogey.
Woods once hit a putt off the 13th green into a tributary of Rae’s Creek at the Masters. But he couldn’t recall hitting a putt into the bunker.
“That was not a good putt,” he said. “It was downwind and I hit it way too hard. It got going on the wind and got going on the grain and was gone. I was obviously ticked. At the end of the day, it was better than yesterday.”
He also had a three-putt from inside 15 feet for bogey on the 13th, missed a short birdie chance on the reachable par-4 14th, and dropped a shot on the 16th, the toughest hole on the course.
Woods was five shots better than his opening round, though still in 15th place in the 20-man field.
“I think it’s just trying to get my feels back and the mindset over a shot and how many things run through my mind of hitting the shot the right trajectory, the right window, the right shape, the right distance,” he said. “I did a better job on that today and I’m sure I’ll do a better job of that tomorrow.
“The more rounds and more reps I can get under my belt competitively, I think those things will start coming back.”
EUROPEAN TOUR: Swedish golfer Jesper Svensson shot a 5-under 67 to take a one-stroke lead into the weekend at the South African Open Championship in Johannesburg.
Svensson moved ahead of overnight leader and countryman Joakim Lagergren (71), Italy’s Matteo Manassero (68) and home favorite Casey Jarvis (70).
AUSTRALIAN OPEN: Min Woo Lee moved into a strong position to win back-to-back titles by taking a three-shot lead halfway through the Australian Open in Sydney, just five days after winning the Australian PGA Championship.
The 25-year-old Western Australian golfer moved to 12 under after a 64.
American Patrick Rodgers was tied for second with Connor Syme of Scotland at 9 under.