Tiger Woods three-putted the 72nd green to finish the Hero World Challenge bogey-bogey, an end to a tournament that would typically be met with some anger. Instead, the 68 that Woods tapped in for was his third round in the 60s of the week and resulted in a top-10 finish in his 18-man invitational event.
It’s just one week, and an unofficial event, but consider this: Tiger beat the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year (Thomas) by 1, the World No. 1 (DJ) by 8, and the reigning U.S. Open champ – who won by 9 in his previous start (Koepka) – by 11.
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) December 3, 2017
Woods shot himself out of contention on Saturday with a 3-over par 75, not a terrible score when you consider that no one in the field broke 70, but not good enough to keep his name in the ring entering his first Sunday of competitive golf in a year.
Even still, the positives to be gleaned in Woods latest attempt at a comeback seem to be more promising that other recent attempts.
Decked out in his signature red and black and replete with a confidence that transcended his spot on the leaderboard, Tiger Woods offered a wry smile as he made his way to Sunday’s award ceremony at the Hero World Challenge.
He’s wasn’t a winner, but he was far from a ceremonial golfer, which was the fear held by some following his fourth back procedure in April.
When scorecards are reviewed years from now it will be that opening-nine 40 on Saturday that derailed any chance for the Cinderella story that will stand out, but it wasn’t that windswept effort on Day 3, or even his spirtied finish on Sunday, that provided the final snapshot of Woods’ first start in 301 days.
To me, the most amazing part of @TigerWoods performance this week is how he swings the club with fearless speed. There is no hesitation and I’ve rearely seen him rehearse technique. Hard to believe he had fusion surgery earlier this year.
— Todd Lewis (@ToddLewisGC) December 3, 2017
His tie for ninth place at Albany, a full 10 shots behind champion Rickie Fowler, tells only a fraction of the tale. For four days, Woods drove the ball as well as he has in a decade, putted better than his final statistics might suggest and largely controlled his golf ball with the notable exception of his opening loop on Saturday.
“This is the way I’ve been playing at home and when I came out here and played, I was playing very similar to this. Not quite hitting it as far, but I had the adrenaline going and overall I’m very pleased,” Woods said following a final-round 68.
It was well documented that Woods’ short game wasn’t exactly in midseason form, but then the rust from 10 months of competitive inactivity would always manifest itself within the blades of Albany’s grainy Bermuda grass collection areas. He also didn’t appear entirely comfortable playing shots into right-to-left gusts, but that’s nothing a few more trips around a tournament course can’t cure.
No, what mattered on Sunday was the same thing that was crucial on Monday when he set out on his 10th professional comeback following a break of 10 weeks or more – the long-term prognosis.
Woods played nine consecutive days before teeing off for Thursday’s opening frame, a self-imposed endurance test to prove to himself he was ready.
His surgeon had given him the green light to begin golf activities, his trainer had provided additional moral and physical support, but he needed to see for himself if his body, broken and battered for so long, could answer the call.
“I’m excited the way this week has gone,” said Woods, whose relaxed demeanor matched his dramatically improved quality of life. “I’m excited with not only the competitive rounds but also all the functions at night. I still got my training in. It was a very good week.”
Woods did not commit to any other tournaments following his final round, but expectations are that he will begin his season at Torrey Pines for the Farmers Insurance Open. He’s also played the Waste Management Phoenix Open in the recent past. It is virtually guaranteed that he will play in the Genesis Open at Riviera, a tournament that benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation.
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