Tiger splutters on comeback as G-Mac cruises
 Tough day at the office. Tiger Woods towels himself down in Orlando. Picture Fran Caffrey,  www.golffile.ie

Tough day at the office. Tiger Woods towels himself down in Orlando. Picture Fran Caffrey, www.golffile.ie

High expectations sometimes lead to even bigger disappointments and while Tiger Woods might not have expected to shoot the lights out, his opening five over 77 in the Hero World Challenge was like like watching a Ferrari career into the barriers right from the green light.

A fairway wood out of bounds on the opening hole signalled the start of Woods' return to action after a four-month break with a retooled swing, new clubs, a new ball and a rejuvenated body and it didn't get much better from there.

With his coaching consultant Chris Como, dressed from head to toe in Nike gear,  trailing him around Isleworth, Woods could not have asked for a more sobering wake up call.

His rustiness was most evident around the greens as he chunked three chips — 8th, 13th and 17th — with the duff that led to a double bogey six at the eighth enough to make even a high handicapper wince.

Denied on the greens, he made his first birdie of the day at the 12th, where he almost holed his approach but made another sloppy bogey at the 13th, where he needed three chip shots to reach the green.

“Today, it was weird,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I hit it that bad. My short game was awful, and I didn’t make anything.”

“It certainly is surprising that I could hit chips that poorly. Just flubbed them. I felt comfortable on a lot of the chip shots this week as I was playing practice rounds off the tighter spots.  But when it got a little grainier, just wasn't as good as I needed it to be.”

Woods said he was pain free and excited by some of drives he hit with great freedom on the back nine.

According to Jason Day, who played with Woods on Thursday and in a practice round Monday,  Woods was “on point” with his chipping Monday but as the PGA Tour's Sean Martin reported, "it was a different story with a scorecard in hand."

 Graeme McDowell. Picture Fran Caffrey,  www.golffile.ie

Graeme McDowell. Picture Fran Caffrey, www.golffile.ie

“That’s just giving away shots there,” Day said. “It’s just painful because you’re watching a guy with 14 majors. For him to be doing stuff like that, there’s a lot of rust there.

“Obviously there’s no pressure in practice rounds, but he was flushing it. Chipping well, putting well. Today he just kind of struggled around the greens.”

Jordan Spieth won the Australian Open last weekend and continued where he left off with a 63 on Sunday as he posted a six-under par 66 to lead by one from Henrik Stenson, Steve Stricker, Rickie Fowler and Zach Johnson.

Spieth, 22, looked impressive but there were also some good things from Graeme McDowell, an Orlando resident, as he opened with a 68 to share sixth spot on four under.

It could have been better for McDowell, who twice won this event at Sherwood Country Club outside Los Angeles.

But he bogeyed the last when he found the left rough of the tee, played for a flyer and came up a few yards short of the green from where he opted for the putter and misjudged the grain and the slope, three-putting for a five.

Meanwhile at the Beko Classic hosted by Gloria Hotels & Resorts in Turkey, Chris Gane shot a nine-under par 63 at Gloria’s New Course to lead by one from Darren Clarke, who had seven birdies in a row to go out in 30 for a 64. Scores
Three players are tied for third place after 66s, two time major champion, John Daly, Ireland's Kevin Phelan and 2010 Beko Classic Champion, Raymond Russell. 
Daly and Phelan each made seven birdies and one bogey whilst Russell kept a clean sheet with four birdies and one eagle on Gloria Old Course’s ninth hole.