All focus was fixated on the return of Tiger Woods, but it was JB Holmes who stole the show against a stacked field on day one of the 2016 Hero World Challenge at the Albany Golf Course.
Holmes, ranked No.27 on the official World Golf Ranking, currently sits alone atop the leaderboard with an opening round 64 (-8).
The University of Kentucky graduate, followed up the Wildcats appearance at the Atlantis Showcase earlier this week, with a stellar opening round – despite playing on a course that he deemed not ideal for his skillset.
“It’s great to be able to come down here in the Bahamas. Albany’s awesome. Just the way this tournament’s run, it’s a good golf course. It’s just a good time of year to have some fun and be competitive but not beat yourself up too bad,” he said, “Well, I don’t necessarily think the course is made for me. A lot of people shot some good scores. A lot of the par 5s are reachable for a lot of people. But yeah, anytime you can get five par 5s and put up some good scores, played well today.”
He began the round with a bogey but recovered to eventually shot -5 on the par 5 holes.
“Yeah, it was a great day for me. Putted well, hit my irons well and my driver well. Pretty much all around solid day. Also got a good score out of it, so it was a lot of fun. Missed a couple putts I felt like I could have made, but I also made a couple putts of some length, so it was just a really good, solid day,” Holmes said, “ Not a whole lot of ‑‑ first hole made a bogey and other than that I was pretty much tap‑in with pars or close in for birdies. So it was not necessarily an easy 64, but it was stress free because I hit a lot of good shots.”
Woods finished day one at 73 (+1). He hit 11 greens and six fairways and was briefly tied for the lead at -2 under on the 8th hole.
He entered the back nine at -3, but struggled down the stretch with a bogey on 11 and double bogies on 16 and 18.
“This golf course, if you’re driving it great here, you can take advantage of this golf course, you can tear it apart. But if you’re not, you get up in some bushes and some rods, you can go sideways. But all in all, I feel pretty good. I’m looking forward to another three more days.”
In his return to competitive golf for the first time in 15 months, the former world No.1 said he was able to adjust quickly to the flow of the game but still needs to return to basic fundamentals to elevate his game.
“[I was surprised] I think how quickly I fell into the competitive mode and I felt the feel of the round. By the time I hit the second, my tee shot on the second hole, I had already gotten into the flow of the round. That’s something that for me when I’ve taken layoffs and taken breaks, it’s quickly can I find the feel of the round. It’s good to be able to play in, what, 15, 16 months and get it on the second hole is nice,” he said, “Right now it’s just more natural now than anything else. I’ve gone back to a lot of my old stuff that I used to do when I was a kid. Some of the feels that I have have come back. I just need to keep playing. My feels need to keep coming back, seeing the shots, feeling the shots, hitting my numbers and the shapes and getting all that.”
Patrick Reed, who was paired with Woods for the round shot an even 72, tied for 12th overall and assessed the day for both players.
“I mean, it was nice playing with him. You know, unfortunately it wasn’t quite the way we both wanted to play, but it was awesome to get him back out here and play golf with him. The first eight holes he played he played really well. I was like wow, he seemed like he had complete control of what he was trying to do with the golf ball. There’s just a couple loose swings here and there, but it was kind of hard to see really a lot of his shots because I was too busy going in the bushes, going in bunkers. I was all over the place. I need to tighten up my own game and he needs to tighten some things up, too, but it’s awesome to have him back,” he said, “His swing looked good. When he hit it well, it was really, really good, and when you mis‑hit it, it was kind of, you know, they weren’t very good misses. But at the end of the day, to take off as much time as he had and come back and be his first competitive round and to have the kind of spurts that he had throughout the round, it was good to see because there’s nothing like hitting balls on the range and practicing and going out and playing some holes, but getting under the gun like that, it was cool to see.”
Hideki Matsuyama of Japan is currently second at 65 (-7).
“Front nine I didn’t play real well, but back nine I started making some putts and I’m happy with the round,” he said, “The wind wasn’t as strong as it was yesterday so the course did play a little bit easier today. Last week in Australia at the World Cup the wind blew hard, too, and so maybe I’m just getting used to it.”
American Dustin Johnson, the highest ranked player in the field at No.3 is also currently third among the field at 66 (-6)
Following him, the group tied for 4th at 67 (-5) includes Henrik Stenson of Sweden, Matt Kuchar of the United States and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa.
Americans Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth are tied for 7th at 68 (-4).
Defending champion Bubba Watson is tied among a group of five players at an even 72.
Justin Rose, Britain’s Olympic gold medallist who has take up residency in the Bahamas, rounded out the field at No.18 with a 74 (+2).
Play continues today at the Albany Golf Course with the first group, Woods and Rose set to tee off at 11:12am.
Holmes and Matsuyama will tee off in the final pairing at 12:40pm.