Welcome back, Tiger
December 04, 2016
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
- Tiger Woods made the most birdies out of any golfer this week at the Hero World Challenge with 24. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
NASSAU, Bahamas – Tiger Woods is back.
Sure – the 79-time PGA TOUR winner finished just 15th of 17 players to complete the Hero World Challenge.
Sure – the 14-time major champion had a worrying six double bogeys and eight bogeys over his four rounds as he closed with a with a 4-over 76.
A few years ago, this would have been well below par. A few years ago we would all be wondering what was wrong with him.
But in his first competitive event in almost 16 months the positives clearly outweighed the negatives.
In the end, Woods shot 73-65-70-76 to be 4-under and 14 shots back of winner Hideki Matsuyama.
Just the fact Woods completed the event unscathed - after multiple back surgeries had him contemplating retirement just a year ago - was a win.
Woods had 24 birdies for the week, the most of the field. (Winner Hideki Matsuyama had 22 plus 2 eagles).
Woods showed he can still give the ball an almighty whack off the tee, outdriving all three players he played with at Albany.
And he made sure to provide plenty of highlight moments, be it lengthy birdie or par saving putts, or even holing out from the sand.
We had club twirls and fist pumps. We had Sunday red. Love him or not, Woods brought a huge buzz with him for the sport.
In the past Woods may not have admitted a result like this was acceptable. But the 40-year-old could smell the roses to some extent this time around.
“Getting back to this point is beyond anything that I've ever experienced in my lifetime,” Woods said.
“The pain issues that I had, it was rough. To battle back, to battle through it, to have the friends I've had who have supported me, helped me through it. Quite frankly there were some pretty dire times where I just couldn't move.
“Big picture? It feels good. It feels good to be back out here playing again, competing and trying to beat the best players in the world. I missed it. I love it.
“I've been doing it for a very long time and this stretch where I've been off for almost a year and a half has been rough and the last few years have been rough.”
Tiger Woods comments after Round 4 of Hero World Challenge
Another former World No.1 in Jordan Spieth agreed the week was a success for Woods, and hoped he would go from strength to strength.
“What looks like is happening is he's being patient, he's making a return, he's confident in his game, it looks like he's going to be back,” Spieth said.
“That's really exciting for us and for golf.”
Rather than be intimidated by the prospect of Woods hitting his peak once more in the future, Spieth instead embraced it.
And he thinks most of his contemporaries feel the same way.
“I think it's a fun buzz within the players that aren't Tiger because we all want to opportunity to go head to head with him,” Spieth admitted.
“That's why we got into this, not to play for second but to have a chance to take down the top couple greatest to ever play the game.
“Even if it's Tiger's tournament next year or it's a major championship, we can say I battled Tiger when we felt like he was really on and I was able to get the breaks and pull it off. That's something you can tell your grandkids.”
So now the question remains when we may see Woods again.
In the past his first start on the PGA TOUR has been the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in late January, a venue he has won at eight times throughout his career.
He may look to play in the Middle East on the European Tour before or after that.
His foundation also has ties to the Genesis Open at Riviera in February. Woods has not ruled out playing in non-traditional spots on the schedule as well.
“I'll consider a lot of things, but I would like in my heart of hearts to play a full schedule next year,” Woods said before stating he wants to work his way into the 2017 Presidents Cup team as a playing assistant captain.
“The good thing is that because I have been away for so long, that everything I do here, I just keep accruing points,” he added in regards to his world ranking which will climb from the high 800s to somewhere around the 650 mark.
“Nothing's falling off. So if I play halfway decent, I'll keep climbing quickly, and if I happen to have a couple wins in there, I'll jump really fast.
“We're going to sit down, I'll have a couple weeks here off, work with my physios. Get a little bit stronger, put the weight back on that I lost when I got sick and then really assess, okay, what's the plan, what's the smart plan here, how much we can play on the west coast, how much we can play in Florida leading to the Masters, what is the plan leading to Augusta.
“Just like it always is, but this one's going to be a little bit different because, quite frankly, I haven't done it in a while, so we're going to be smart about it.”
One thing is for sure. When he does return – we will all be watching.
Tiger Woods' slo-mo swing from 2015 vs. 2016 at Hero World Challenge