Tiger Woods shocks Patrick Reed with distance in Hero World preview

Nov 27, 2017; New Providence, The Bahamas; Tiger Woods hits his tee shot on the seventh hole during Monday's practice round of the Hero World Challenge golf tournament at Albany. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports

Tiger Woods shocks Patrick Reed with distance in Hero World preview

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods shocks Patrick Reed with distance in Hero World preview

NASSAU, Bahamas — For three days now, Tiger Woods has whetted the appetites of a hopeful golf world with some inspiring images.

On Saturday, videos of his effortless and powerful swing emerged from a round of golf in Florida with President Donald Trump, world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and longtime Tour player Brad Faxon.

On Sunday, more videos hit social media as a pain-free and relaxed Woods played a swift round at Albany Golf Course on this island paradise full of swaying palm trees and miles of beaches. He then spent more than an hour putting and chipping as he readied himself for his latest comeback, starting Thursday in the Hero World Challenge.

And on Monday, Woods, 41, was back at Albany alongside Captain America, Patrick Reed, for nine holes, which he followed with a long session on the back of the range and then more putting and chipping.

Reed, who last played with Woods a year ago in the first round of the Hero World Challenge, said this year is different. This comeback, he added, could be far different than his aborted return to the game last year, when he only made three starts before ultimately having his fourth back surgery since 2014 — this time a spinal fusion procedure on April 19.

“The last time I played with him it looked like there was a little bit of hesitation going after different shots, like bunker shots, shots out of the rough. This time he was fully committed and fully trusting his body that there would be no pain,” Reed said. “That’s the biggest thing for me; if he stays healthy and his body cooperates the way it’s supposed to, he’ll be back to playing golf, hopefully like he used to play.

“He had pep in his step. He was in high spirits. I was shocked how fluid his swing was and how far the ball was going. He had some speed behind it. He’s always been a little longer than me, but some of those drives today, he got it out there. He was hitting the stinger here and there, hitting bunker shots, hitting balls out of the rough … there just wasn’t any hesitation in his body to hit those shots. That’s key. If he stays healthy, we’ll see Tiger again.”

Woods, who has made just three starts in two years, hasn’t played since February and won the last of his 79 Tour titles in 2013, told reporters Sunday he is pain-free for the first time in years and no longer afraid of taking his next step in fear of triggering a nerve reaction.

On Monday, he said the rest of his body, in addition to his back, is feeling great, including his surgically repaired left knee. And the big toe on his right foot is back in play.

As he sent one ball after another onto the horizon with most every club in his bag, Woods explained that his big toe is no longer dormant because of nerve damage. Now, he said, he can move his toe and fully push off with his right foot.

 The one thing he’s apprehensive about is the first round on Thursday.

“Just playing a competitive round is what has to come back to me,” said Woods, the former world No. 1 for a record 683 weeks who is now ranked No. 1,199. “It’s the rhythm of playing a competitive round, of playing without being able to throw down another ball and hitting another shot like I do at home. Playing with a scorecard in your hand, competing against the best players in the world.

“I just haven’t done much for two years now, so it’s going to be different.”

But he’s done enough to get his body back in shape and give it another go.

“It will take time for him to get back to his normal ways,” Reed said. “A year ago he seemed like he came back a little early. This time I think he gave himself a little bit more time and built himself up more. From what I saw from him today, as long as his body holds up, I don’t see anything holding him back. His putting stroke looked good, his chipping looked solid, he was hitting it long and both ways. He seemed to have command not only of his swing but his body.

“With what I saw today, he’s going to be rusty. That’s going to happen to anybody. There are going to be some great stretches, some not so great stretches. But he’ll figure it out somehow. And when he does, I can’t wait to see it.”

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