NEW PROVIDENCE, Bahamas — Tiger Woods against Jordan Spieth. It wasn’t exactly The Match, the made-for-TV exhibition between Woods and Phil Mickelson last Thanksgiving. But neither was the result.
Woods was a winner this time.
This year’s Hero World Challenge, the annual tournament put on by Woods at posh Albany, unofficially kicked off on Monday afternoon with a true hit-and-giggle called the Hero Shot at nearby swanky resort Baha Mar, where the host was joined by Spieth, Gary Woodland, Henrik Stenson, Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau as each took their best cracks from a makeshift tee box at a makeshift green 130 yards away.
Standing on an elevated platform that faced the beach and with palm trees lining the resort’s reflecting pools and gently swaying in the breeze, the competition consisted of three rounds, with the first featuring head-to-head match-ups that pitted Rahm against Stenson, Woodland against Spieth and DeChambeau against Woods.
Each had six balls to rack up as many points as possible, with the target featuring rings worth 100, 200 and 500 points for a bullseye. The sixth ball in each round was worth double.
On both sides of the stage, roughly 1,000 well-heeled fans mingled and cheered, some even placing bets on who would beat whom. A local DJ pumped out crowd-pleasing hip hop. Players joked and jabbed with one another.
Up first was Rahm, who narrowly missed a bullseye with his first swing before eventually dispensing of Stenson. Then it was Spieth’s turn as he rallied past Woodland.
The tournament host? He didn’t even need his sixth and final shot to beat DeChambeau, instead tossing the ball to the adoring and well-oiled crowd.
In the next round, Woods again only needed five balls as he and Spieth, the top two scorers, advanced to the finale.
That’s when Woods delivered on cue.
Tied with Spieth and with one shot left, Woods threw a soft shot up in the air, gave his wedge a twirl and pointed skyward. Bullseye, and with it a victory. The result was meaningless but the vibe joyful and fun.
“My swing felt pretty good tonight,” Woods said, before adding how much it meant to have a great turnout for a tournament that he’s been putting on for more than 20 years.
“It’s a big week and a big day.”