Uncertain about his professional golf future 10 months ago after undergoing his fourth back surgery, Tiger Woods proved he still has game this week by tying for ninth at the 19th Hero World Challenge. He broke par three times, capped by a 4-under 68 on Sunday, hit his driver long and straight, and walked off the 18th green at Albany pain-free. “I knew I was going to be able to play all four rounds, that wasn’t going to be an issue,” said Woods, who turns 42 on Dec. 30. “The issue was scoring. I drove it pretty well and made some good putts. Overall, I’m pretty pleased.”
Woods posted scores of 69-68-75-68 to finish at 8-under 280. Rickie Fowler fired a course and tournament record 11-under 61 Sunday to overtake Charley Hoffman and capture the title. Fowler wound up at 18-under 270, while Hoffman (72) took second at 14-under 274.
Woods wore a smile all week and was thrilled to return to an arena he has missed so much. Competing after a 301 days break and for only the fourth time in three years, he showcased the power, his shot-making skills and touch that have helped him accumulate 79 PGA Tour victories and 14 major championships.
Admittedly nervous on the first tee Thursday, Woods piped his driver down the left side of the fairway and showed no signs of previous injuries. He only sprayed a few tee shots, launched towering 3-woods and 2-irons, scrambled for clutch pars and rolled in two lengthy eagle putts. His performance captivated the curious golf world and was unanimously praised by all the followers around the course or at home via NBC, Sky or Canal+ among other TV networks. After struggling in the wind Saturday, Woods regained his rhythm on Sunday. Paired with Justin Thomas, he poured in birdies and a state of art eagle at the 336-yard par-4 seventh, curling in a 25-foot left-to-right putt. He then birdie the par-5 ninth to make the turn in 5-under 31 for the second time during the tournament.
“A bright future,” said Woods. Speaking of that, he did not reveal when he will play next. “I’ll sit down with my team and figure out the best way to build my 2018 schedule. Play enough but not too much”. Ahead of the Hero Challenge, Woods played golf for nine straight days to test his endurance. He didn’t miss a step at Albany.
Asked if he thought Woods could win again on the PGA Tour, Patrick Reed answered quickly.“No doubt about it,” he said. “It’s awesome to see him back playing that well.” Mark Soltau