Hero World Challenge: Gary Woodland, Patrick Reed in joint lead

Tournament host Tiger Woods sits tied-11th after the opening round; Patrick Cantlay, Jordan Spieth struggle too.

Leader Gary Woodland in action during Hero World Challenge in Albany.   -  Special arrangement

Tiger Woods expectedly drew the biggest crowd, but failed to live up to expectations in the first round of the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Club here on Wednesday.

An erratic Woods recorded an even-par round, to sit in tied-11th. U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland and Patrick Reed, both part of the U.S.A. team captained by Woods for the upcoming President’s Cup, lead the field with six-under 66 rounds.

On a windy day, Woods struggled to get going, making three bogeys on the front-nine. He roared back with three birdies - on the 11th, 13th and 14th - and got the crowd excited when he chipped in to make an eagle on the par-5 15th. A disastrous bogey and double bogey on the last two holes, however, dented his card.

“It was not a very good start. I didn't play the par-5s well early, and then got it going on the back nine for a little bit. I got myself kind of right there in the mix and then.. bad shots on 17, 18,” Woods said.

Woodland, meanwhile, made a field-best eight birdies to put up a strong show. He read the conditions well, adjusting his game to the strong winds.

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“The wind is tough out there. The greens were receptive to the wind, which was nice. If you can get into the wind chipping, sometimes it's better to miss the green than be in the middle of the green putting downwind. I tried to chip and putt into the wind all day today,” Woodland said.

Woodland explained that this event serves as good preparation for the President’s Cup, which commences at Melbourne on Monday.

The 35-year-old and his U.S.A teammates take on the International Team (sans Europe). “Working the golf ball with the wind, and controlling the ball distance-wise.. I think that's a nice tune-up for next week," Woodland said.

Reed, who was three top-five finishes in his last five appearances in this tournament, relied on low iron shots to penetrate the wind. Chez Reavie, a late replacement for Dustin Johnson, sits in second-place with a four-under 68.

Small victory

On a tough day at the office, Tiger Woods wasn’t going to miss a
chance to savour the small victories. On the 589-yard par-5 11th hole, Woods hit a sweet tee-shot to outdrive his playing partner Justin Thomas.

Woods, 17 years elder to Thomas, walked over to the younger man’s ball and shot a smile. Woods made it plainly clear to an amused Thomas that the veterans still have plenty of firepower left in the tank.

Both players proceeded to make birdies, though it was Thomas who had the last laugh. Thomas carded a three-under 69 first round, three shots better than Woods.


The scores (top-eight):

66: Gary Woodland, Patrick Reed; 68: Chez Reavie; 69: Justin Rose, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson; 69: Jon Rahm

(The writer is in Nassau on invitation from Hero MotoCorp)