Golf: Tiger off to woeful start in latest comeback bid

Tiger Woods hits his tee shot on the third hole during the first round of the Hero World Challenge at the Isleworth Golf & Country Club on Dec 4, 2014 in Windermere, Florida. Woods made a horrendous start to his latest injury comeback bid Thursda
Tiger Woods hits his tee shot on the third hole during the first round of the Hero World Challenge at the Isleworth Golf & Country Club on Dec 4, 2014 in Windermere, Florida. Woods made a horrendous start to his latest injury comeback bid Thursday, making three bogeys and a double bogey in his first nine holes at the Hero World Challenge. -- PHOTO: AFP 

ORLANDO (AFP) - Tiger Woods made a horrendous start to his latest injury comeback bid Thursday, making three bogeys and a double bogey in his first nine holes at the Hero World Challenge.

The former world No. 1 ended a four-month competitive layoff at par-72 Isleworth in the 18-player event, but quickly showed he still has plenty of work remaining to recapture the form that brought him 14 major titles, four shy of Jack Nicklaus’ all-time record.

Woods fired a five-over 41 on the front nine – 10 strokes behind leader Jordan Spieth – at a course where he once shot a 59 in a full practice round alongside Mark O’Meara.

Woods, who had not played in competition or walked 18 holes since the PGA Championship, hit his first tournament shot since Aug 8 out of bounds to the left off the first tee on his way to a bogey.

The 38-year-old US star sent his first three tee shots to the left, missing a 15-foot par putt at the par-3 second and rescuing par at the par-5 third.

Woods blasted a driver right into a bunker at the par-5 seventh and took two shots to escape a bunker on his way to a bogey.

At the eighth, Woods went well left off the tee near a fence at a house adjacent to the course. His second shot struck a tree and Woods would blast his approach over the green and stub a chip on the way to a double bogey.

The struggles came despite Woods showing no sign of the nagging back pain that sidelined him most of this season in his comeback at the US$3.5 million (S$4.6 million) event, which benefits his charity foundation.

Woods, who turned back to younger motions for his latest swing changes after talks with new swing consultant Chris Como, has no timetable on when he might return to peak form.

“I’m curious to find that out, too,” Woods said Tuesday. “It’s going to be nice to play a tournament this week and get a feel for being under the heat and see where my swing is.”

While one round will not make or break his return, it was a disappointing start that indicated any return to form by Woods will be a long and difficult.

Woods, who turns 39 on Dec 30, must become the first player in history to win four majors past his 39th birthday to catch Nicklaus’ total.

Woods was paired with Australian Jason Day, also returning from a back injury, for the first round at the 7,354-yard layout.

The field also includes reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson, world No. 2 Henrik Stenson of Sweden and 2013 US Open winner Justin Rose of England.

Woods won the Challenge in 2001, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2011 but this is the first time the event has been held at Isleworth.