Successful return for Tiger Woods at Hero World Challenge
December 03, 2017
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Tiger Woods extended highlights | Round 4 | Hero
ALBANY, Bahamas – Tiger Woods is back – again.
The future looks bright for Woods after the 79-time PGA TOUR winner successfully negotiated all four rounds at the Hero World Challenge in his long-awaited comeback from back surgery.
Woods, who had his back fused just seven months ago, finished the tournament that he hosts to benefit his foundation with rounds of 69-68-75-68.
It was his first competitive golf tournament since early February so expectations weren’t that high – yet he beat half the field (tied 9th) in the 18-man event at Albany… albeit 10 shots adrift of winner Rickie Fowler.
Besting the likes of FedExCup champion Justin Thomas and world No.1 Dustin Johnson will see him climb from his lowly 1199th spot in the world rankings to somewhere in the mid 700s.
Showing speed and power with his full swings and seemingly without any discomfort despite a total of four back surgeries to his name since 2013 the two-time FedExCup champion proved a return to regular PGA TOUR duties is far from beyond him.
The 14-time major champion will turn 42 on December 30 and his likely schedule is yet to be confirmed however there were enough positives from the four rounds to suggest Woods can be a regular contender again.
“I'm excited,” Woods said Sunday.
“I had the adrenaline going and overall I'm very pleased. I knew I was going to be able to play all four rounds, that wasn't going to be an issue. The issue was how was my scoring going to be, how was my feel, how am I going to get used to the adrenaline in my system for the first time in a while.
“That took a little bit of time. I was still good with my irons, I drove it pretty good all week, made some good putts. I showed some good signs, I hit some really good shots out there and (it’s) a bright future.”
If history is anything to go by the likely return to his first full-field TOUR event will come at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in late January, the last place Woods played in an official TOUR event.
He’s won the event seven times and also won his last major, the 2008 U.S. Open, at the venue.
“We're going to sit down, we'll figure it out, where I'm going to start, how much I'm going to play, rest periods, training cycles, the whole nine yards,” Woods added.
“My expectations are we'll be playing next year. How many, where, I don't know yet, but we'll figure it out.”
In the meantime, Woods said he will continue his recent trend of playing money games against Fowler, Justin Thomas and other young stars from the TOUR.
They want a piece of him, and he wants a piece of them. It is all helping to build the competitive edge back up.
“I'm sure the guys will have some denominations they want to play for,” Woods said.
“JT was already alluding to that as we were playing today so when we go home, these guys are awesome, they want to play almost every day. They want to compete, they want to see me back out there, and it's really nice to have that type of camaraderie.”
Clearly it is helping those guys also. Thomas already has a win this season. Fowler was second at the OHL Classic at Mayokoba before winning here.
“I think he sharpened me up a little bit,” Fowler said.
And Fowler expects everyone on TOUR better sharpen up as the veteran Woods gets some more competitive rounds under his belt.
“If his back holds up and he keeps swinging the way he does, there's no doubt that he can go out and win,” Fowler said.
“Tiger's still going to have that similar effect when you see his name on the board coming down the last nine holes and being in the mix. You know he's not scared. He's done it, he's been there before.
“I haven't played up against him in his prime. I think we're all looking forward to having the chance to play with Tiger down the stretch.
“I wouldn't say guys are scared. I think they're more excited about it and having him back and having the chance to play against Tiger, and we want to see him play well. It's only better for our game.”