By Jack Ryan
In another impressive showing in his latest comeback from back surgeries, Tiger Woods has a 31 on the front nine at Albany Golf Club that briefly gave him the lead yesterday. He stalled on the back nine with a pair of bogeys and not enough birdie chances, and he settled for a 4-under-par 68.
‘‘Successful,’’ Woods said, when asked to describe his round in one word.
Woods was five shots behind Charley Hoffman, who had a 63 that might have sent fans into a frenzy if they had been watching.
Hoffman made 12 birdies, closing with five in a row. He was at 12-under 132 and had a three-shot lead over Jordan Spieth (67) and Tommy Fleetwood (69). Hoffman made only one par over his final 12 holes to go along with eight birdies and three bogeys.
But this week, a holiday exhibition with an 18-man field and no cut, is all about Woods. That much was obvious after the round.
Hoffman spoke to no more than five reporters about his round, while a dozen others were about 30 feet away surrounding Joe LaCava, Woods’s caddie, looking for any additional morsel about his round.
Woods delivered plenty on his own. He opened with three birdies in four holes. He made three good pars, one of them having to chip up the slope from a thin lie on No. 8, and then really raised hopes with his eagle on the par-5 ninth, set up by a 3-wood into the wind from 265 yards.
‘‘Hit up in the air and took something off of it and cut it back into the wind,’’ he said.
He made the 20-foot putt to reach 8 under. Behind him, Hoffman made bogey on the par-3 eighth. Woods was alone in the lead, and the workers at the white scoreboard to the left of the green quickly moved his name to the top as some 100 people — that constitutes a large gallery this week — began cheering. There was a smattering of ‘‘He’s back!’’ and even a few mentions about the Masters.