Reality bites for Woods at Hero World Challenge
December 02, 2017
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods interview after Round 3 of Hero
ALBANY, Bahamas – Sometimes reality bites.
After impressively opening the Hero World Challenge with rounds of 69-68 and with thoughts of an unlikely victory on their minds Tiger Woods and his legions of fans were brought back to earth on Saturday at Albany.
There was no sub-70 round today. The 79-time PGA TOUR winner didn’t scare par. Instead it was a 3-over 75 to drop him a distant 10 shots from Charley Hoffman’s lead in a tie for 10th in the 18-man field.
While a scratchy round or two was expected by most for Woods given he is playing for the first time in 10 months and just seven months after back fusion surgery – it was hard not to get jacked up after the opening two days.
We’d seen power and speed off the tee. We’d seen putts made from distance. Fist pumps… laser long irons… plenty to get excited about.
Sure we saw a couple of iffy chips and some struggles on the par-5s on the opening day, but for the most part things were looking better than expected.
Even caddie Joe LaCava was impressed.
“I was a little bit surprised. I think everyone was hoping for the best, but it was definitely better than we thought,” LaCava said after Round 2.
“The power and speed and length he’s hitting it I didn’t think it would come this quick.”
And then came Saturday where the 14-time major winner’s start derailed any hope he had of pushing towards a sixth Hero World Challenge title.
Four bogeys on the opening nine holes to turn in 40, nine shots worse than the day before.
Woods hit just two greens in regulation, drove it erratically, failed to dial in his numbers, duffed a chip or two, pulled and pushed some putts… it was just a scratchy effort all around.
“I really didn’t feel like I was that far off, that’s the crazy part,” Woods said.
“It was a rough start. Whatever I did right ended up in a bad spot and whatever I did wrong was really wrong. I just couldn't get it turned around, it kept going the wrong way.”
After another bogey to open the back nine and a loose par on the par-5 11th - Woods finally started to find somewhat of a groove.
He actually did start to turn it around. But it was too little too late in terms of this tournament.
Two birdies came in the last seven holes where he hit every green in regulation.
“It was just one of those days… I’ve got to keep fighting,” Woods said.
“And that’s one thing I’ve always done my entire career is just keep fighting and try to post the best number I possibly could.
“That's just golf, we're always going to face adversity. It was frustrating that I couldn't get it turned around on the easier holes. I played four par-5s and I hadn't made a birdie yet. That’s not very good.”
But in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t about this one tournament.
Woods’ return is about the bigger picture. About trying to figure out his new body, his new swing. About trying to string four good rounds together physically and mentally.
About trying to get himself ready for some sort of regular TOUR life again.
“I feel good. I feel like I've got some experience in,” Woods said.
“It's nice to be part of the fight again. Get out there and fighting against the golf course, fighting against the guys, that's fun. I just haven't done it a whole lot in the last few years.
“I'm very happy that I've hit the ball as well as I have, the feel of my putter, overall shaping of shots and just trying to put together a round.”
He has one more chance this week to put a round together – hopefully it’s another that brings hope heading forward like the first two.
But whatever it is – if he remains pain free and healthy – it’s still a win regardless of whether or not he holds the trophy.