Not only did Tiger Woods return to golf on Thursday, he returned to being Tiger.
Hardly looking like a player who had not competed in 466 days, Woods scored three straight birdies and was tied for the lead in the Hero World Challenge as he approached the turn.
Three shots in the bushes, one shot in the water and a few fits of anger then sent him toward the bottom of the pack. A pair of double bogeys over the final three holes ruined an otherwise impressive return, and Woods shot 40 on the back nine at Albany Golf Club and had to settle for a one-over 73.
He is in 17th place in the 18-man field, in front of only Justin Rose. After taking off 15 months to recover from two back surgeries, he felt no pain or limitations.
"It could have been something really good," Woods said. "I got off to a nice, solid start … all in all, I feel pretty good."
He was nine shots behind JB Holmes, who opened with an eight-under 64.
"By the time I hit my tee shot on the second hole, I had already gotten into the flow of the round," Woods said.
"To not play in 15, 16 months and get it on the second hole is nice."
For a short time, Woods seemed up to the task. He hit a shot from 40 yards to five feet for birdie on the par-5 sixth, the wedge to five feet for birdie on the seventh, and a six-iron struck well on the par-3 eighth.
At that point he was tied with Holmes, and then it all fell apart.
Froom the middle of the 16th fairway, he pulled his approach and dropped the club as it sailed into a bush.
And then on the 18th, he pulled his driver and immediately slammed the club into the turf as he watched it splash into the water.
"Just made some really silly mistakes, mistakes I don't normally make," Woods said.
"But I haven't played in a while. I can clean that up. We've got three more days. Wind is supposed to pump on the weekend, and I'll be playing a little bit better."