WINDERMERE, Florida (Reuters) - Tiger Woods fizzled out in his return to competitive golf as a slew of miscues left him in last place after the opening round of the Hero World Challenge on Thursday, well back of leader Jordan Spieth.
Woods, who had not played competitive golf since the PGA Championship in August due to back troubles, struggled with all facets of his game en route to a five-over-par 77 that left him 11 shots back of rising American talent Spieth.
The 21-year-old American, fresh off his victory on Sunday at the Australian Open, and a host of others showed that low scores were available in the 18-man event that Woods is hosting.
“I’m excited about the start to this week,” said Spieth. “I’m excited about how last week went and kind of riding the momentum.”
Woods, meanwhile, was at a loss to explain his struggles.
The former world number one hit wayward drives and irons to the wrong side of the greens, flubbed chips and botched putts on his former home course, Isleworth Golf and Country Club, which he said he has played about 500 times before.
“It was just one of those days where there was nothing went my way,” he said.
Spieth birdied the last four holes of the front nine to post a blazing five-under 31, and had two birdies and a bogey on the homeward half for six-under-par 66.
He was chased by high-powered posse just one stroke behind.
Tied on 67 were Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, 2007 Masters winner Zach Johnson and American’s Rickie Fowler and Steve Stricker.
Another stroke back on a warm, sunny day at the exclusive enclave near Orlando, were Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama and American Jimmy Walker.
By contrast, Woods made his lone birdie at the par-four 12th where he nearly holed out from the fairway.
Woods was flummoxed by his performance but said he took some positives out of his first round back.
“My shot patterns were fantastic. And I got my power back, my speed back. That’s a very good sign,” said Woods, who hit all seven fairways on the back nine. “I have zero pain. I haven’t said that in a long time.”
Playing partner Jason Day, who shot 71, said he was surprised by Woods’s performance.
“There’s a lot of pressure on him to play well,” said the Australian, who noted Woods played very well in their Monday practice. “It was surprising today to see him stumble.”
Editing by Frank Pingue