Hero World Challenge: Viktor Hovland’s eagle, Sepp Straka’s whirlwind week replacing Tiger, newlywed Collin Morikawa and Tom Kim ‘officially meets’ Tiger

Sepp Straka and Justin Thomas walk from the first tee during the first round of the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Course on Dec. 01, 2022 in Nassau, Bahamas. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

While it is no surprise to see Hovland, who shot 18-under en route to victory a year ago, get off to another good start, Austrian-born Sepp Straka wasn’t even in the 20-man unofficial event until Monday around lunchtime when Tiger Woods withdrew with a foot injury. Straka was about to tee off at Shoal Creek in a three-day Ryder Cup-style match back home in Birmingham, Alabama, when he was informed he was the next man up.

“I got the call, so I had to change my schedule up,” he said.

Straka had other plans to scratch, too. He was supposed to attend the Friday wedding of fellow PGA Tour pro J.T. Poston – “which was unfortunate but he understood. It was a huge opportunity and just awesome to be here,” Straka said – and the former Georgia golfer was headed to Atlanta on Saturday to watch his top-ranked Bulldogs play in the SEC Championship game.

“Just have to watch that from here,” he said.

Did he have plans for Sunday, too?

“That was going to be recovering from that game,” he said.

Straka arrived in time to play only 15 holes in Wednesday’s pro-am, which was cut short due to inclement weather, but it didn’t seem to bother him on Thursday.

“I really didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t play much last week just trying to recharge the batteries a little bit,” he said.

Straka is guaranteed a minimum of $100,000 – last-place money – but could make a whole lot more if he keeps playing like he did in the first round, making six birdies against three bogeys. For one day, he played a bit like the man he replaced in the field.

“I mean, the iron game wasn’t as good as his,” Straka said of Woods, “but maybe rubbed off a little bit on me, so yeah, that was nice.”

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