Tiger Woods back on PGA Tour; shoots 3-under in first round since DUI

Tiger Woods gives a fist pumpTiger Woods is trying to finish a rough year on a positive note, playing in the PGA Tour’s Hero World Challenge just six months after his DUI arrest. Woods had stepped away from golf near the beginning of 2017 due to ongoing issues with his back, and his return to professional golf provides hope that he will be able to add another stage to his storied career.

The idea of Woods stepping onto a golf course seemed improbable in April, when he went under the knife for spinal fusion surgery, which carried a six-month recovery period. Things seemed even worse a month later when Woods was found asleep in his car at the side of the road in Florida and was clearly under the influence of prescription medication. He didn’t begin hitting balls again until six weeks ago following his lengthy recovery from the surgery and a rehab stint related to his DUI, but the first round of the Hero World Challenge suggests the wait was worth it.

Woods shot 3-under in the first round on Thursday for his best opening-round score since 2015. He reached the green in two strokes on the third hole for his first birdie of the day and added another on the par-3 eighth hole, but ran into some issues on the par-5 ninth with a bogey. The back nine went even better, with birdies on the 10th, 13th and 14th holes before he missed the fairway on the par-5 15th and ended up with another bogey. The performance put Woods three strokes behind tournament leader Tommy Fleetwood heading into Friday after 15 of the 18 participants finished the first round under par.

This return to the PGA Tour is more symbolic than anything for 41-year-old Woods. He entered Thursday as a longshot to win the Hero World Challenge despite his 14 career major tournament wins and his years of dominance over the world of golf, but those days are far behind him and now simply playing on the tour is an achievement considering the problems he has endured. Woods’ future in golf appeared to be in doubt, but he’s working to turn things around one round at a time.