(Reuters) – Tiger Woods did not take long to display his vintage fist pump on his much-anticipated return to competition on Thursday at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas where the former world number one seemed unbothered by his troublesome back.
Woods, competing for the first time after a near 10-month layoff during which he had spinal fusion surgery, appeared pain free through nine holes at the Albany course on the island of New Providence as he moved to one under par.
The left him in a tie for 10th place and three shots behind Britain’s Tommy Fleetwood, who was four under through 10 holes at the elite 18-man event featuring eight of the world’s top 10 golfers.
After narrowly missing birdie putts on his opening two holes a comfortable-looking Woods hit his approach shot at the par-five third to about 40 feet and went on to tap in for birdie.
On the next hole Woods caught his chip heavy and was left with a 15-footer from just off the green from where he coolly rolled his ball into the middle of the cup before pumping his right fist to the delight of the cheering gallery.
Woods, who turns 41 this month, delivered a more subdued fist pump at the par-three eighth where he rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt after his tee shot settled just on the right edge of the green.
Playing alongside friend and FedExCup champion Justin Thomas, Woods showed his first bit of frustration at the par-five ninth hole when, after failing to reach the green in two, he made a mess of a chip.
Despite being about 30 feet from the cup after two shots Woods settled for his first bogey of the day to reach the turn in one-under 35.
A 79-times winner on the PGA Tour who was world number one for a record 683 weeks, Woods lost form in recent years due to injuries and his ranking has plummeted to 1,199th.
This marks the second consecutive season that Woods is making his return to action at this tournament after a lengthy absence.
He finished 15th in the 17-man field 12 months ago after a 15-month layoff.
Woods then missed the cut at Torrey Pines in January and withdrew from the Dubai Desert Classic the following week because of a back spasm.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)
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