With day one of the action all wrapped up at the Hero World Challenge, what are the key storylines so far?
Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Small field, invitation only tournaments don’t get much more highly anticipated than this week’s Hero World Challenge.
Not only did this year’s event in the Bahamas mark the long-awaited return of Tiger Woods to competitive action, but also one of the first chances to see many of the best players compete against each other in the new season.
Tough conditions at Albany made it hard to predict scoring going into day one of the event, but as has been the case in recent years, low scores ultimately proved to be the story of the day.
It was the moment golf fans had waited 15 months for, and it delivered thrills and disappointment in equal measure. Tiger Woods is back playing competitive golf, and as it often was in his prime, his score doesn’t even tell half the story of his opening round.
Woods ultimately signed for a one-over par 73, but the flashes of what he once was and maybe still could be remained. Tiger shot into a tie for the lead when he made a birdie on the eighth hole, having demonstrated some outstanding ball striking up to that point.
After mis-hitting a tough chip at the ninth things took a turn for Woods, though, and the drives that were hitting the middle of the fairway early on were now all veering left. Double-bogeys at 16 and 18 spoiled an otherwise impressive return, but overall, Woods is healthy and competing again. That will be enough for many golf fans considering his history in recent years.
After opening up with a bogey on his very first hole, the omens weren’t necessarily stellar for the rest of J.B. Holmes’ day. The big hitting Kentucky native took that knock in his stride, though, kicking on for an excellent opening round.
Although Holmes hasn’t won since 2015, he’s been a consistent performer on Tour over the past 12 months, as evidenced by his place on the victorious US Ryder Cup team at Hazeltine.
Holmes brought more of that impressive play with him to New Providence this week, and a combination of seven birdies and an eagle proved to be enough to earn him a one shot opening round lead.
Hideki Matsuyama has been playing some of the best golf of his young career to date over the past month or so. He entered this week’s event looking for his fourth win in five starts across a spell of only six weeks.
With two wins on the Japan Tour joined by his win in the WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai, Matsuyama’s confidence is high. The result is that, on Thursday, even when he missed some of the short putts that have traditionally plagued him, Matsuyama had little difficulty in kicking on.
After an average front nine that included a double-bogey on the eighth hole, Matsuyama turned home in a blistering 30 strokes with four birdies and an eagle helping him to complete a tidy 65. Entering the next three days, Matsuyama will have to be feeling pretty good about his chances.