The Hero World Challenge is the farthest thing from a pressure-packed event, but if anyone felt a little bit of pressure on Thursday it had to be Patrick Reed. Sure, all the latest noise surrounding Captain America (“No, still 3-0 in singles,” he said earlier in the week of his Ryder Cup persona) has been self-imposed, but it would have been a bad look to come out and chop it up after grabbing a few headlines.

Leave it to Reed to shush that all away with a first-round 65, which puts him in a tie for the lead with Patrick Cantlay. He made eight birdies, the most of anyone in the field on day one, against one bogey, in part due to some calm winds in the Bahamas, which allowed him to get aggressive.

“When the wind dies here you can go and attack this place,” said the Masters champion. “The greens are relatively flat, the fairways are pretty generous, but at the same time when the wind is down it just seems like guys are flag hunting.”

Cantlay, who played with Reed in last year’s Zurich Classic, had never played a competitive round at Albany before, this being his first appearance at the Hero. He was still able to post a bogey-free round that included a back-nine 31.

“It’s a little different, because a lot of the places I play all year I’ve played before,” Cantlay said. “Some places I feel really comfortable and I don’t feel totally comfortable in the different winds out here off the tees. But hopefully I’ll keep learning the next few days and figure out the par 5s a little better and figure out the lines off the tee.”

Cantlay and Reed’s closest pursuers include a pair of Major champions in Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson, who tied for third at four-under. Stenson’s fellow countryman Alex Noren is at three-under, as is Bubba Watson.


Tiger starts flat with an opening 73

Most people come back from Las Vegas with a hangover. Tiger Woods did, too, but it wasn’t from too much partying. Looking worn and a step slow from too much golf and a persistent cough, he sleepwalked his way through a one-over 73 – second-last on a day when the breezy Bahamas course was gettable.

Woods made bogeys on the first and fifth holes, but had gotten it back to even-par by the par-3 12th where he stubbed a chip into the water hazard and made triple-bogey.

He ground out two more birdies, but still trailed the first-round leaders by eight. The energy level was the polar opposite from his triumphant first-round 69 at Hero last year when he was playing for the first time since spinal fusion surgery.

“Today was the easiest it’s going to be the entire week. I didn’t take advantage of these pretty benign conditions,” he said. “I didn’t quite feel comfortable with my game today even though I drove it great.”

The driver was one of the few bright spots in the otherwise grey day. Woods hit 10 fairways with a driver setup that he went to just after the US PGA Championship.

“I went back to my old shaft and added a bunch of loft – another degree-and-a-half from where I was,” he said about his TaylorMade M3 with a Mitsubishi Diamana White 70TX shaft. “I don’t hit the ball anywhere near as far as I did earlier in the year or in the summer, but it’s spinnier and the ball is in play. I’m shaping the ball both ways, it’s not going as far. I don’t have the hot ones like I used to.”

Insert your favourite old man joke here, but adding to the flu-like malaise he caught the day after ‘The Match’, Woods visibly struggled with his feet during the round, taking a wrap off his foot on the back nine and walking gingerly up the steep temporary stairs to the scoring shack. “My ankles have been sore for months… just wear and tear,” he said. “I’ve just been run down and tired and trying to catch up with it.”

At least he can sleep in a bit tomorrow. Even though he’s first out with Hideki Matsuyama, one of the luxuries of an 18-man field (and being the tournament host) is that the first tee-time isn’t until 11:15.