Tiger Woods fires 4-under 68 despite bogey-bogey close to finish strong week at Hero

NASSAU, BAHAMAS - DECEMBER 03: Tiger Woods of the United States warms up on the range prior to the final round of the Hero World Challenge at Albany, Bahamas on December 3, 2017 in Nassau, Bahamas. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Tiger Woods fires 4-under 68 despite bogey-bogey close to finish strong week at Hero

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods fires 4-under 68 despite bogey-bogey close to finish strong week at Hero

The stock on Tiger Woods certainly rose in the last four days.

Woods closed out a promising return performance Sunday at the Hero World Challenge, firing a 4-under 68 to post at 8-under 280 for the week. This was despite a disappointing bogey-bogey finish, too. Regardless, Woods posted in the clubhouse in solo 10th (eventually placing in a tie for ninth) against a world-class 18-man field … in his first competitive start in 10 months.

If you’re wondering if this is for real, well that remains to be seen. But there was so much to like this week.

First and foremost, Woods looked healthy – something that certainly is not a given, especially after he returned from a fourth back surgery. His speed was back and he has not lost his ability to drive the ball a long way.

In fact, his combination of distance and accuracy off the tee at Albany Golf Club was a revelation and something that had observers excited.

Woods finished better than his 2016 Hero World Challenge comeback, as he placed 15th in that one.

Woods confirmed afterward that he felt no pain in his back this week, and if that clean bill of health continues, the optimism is high after this performance.

“Overall, I’m very pleased (about this week),” Woods said. “I showed good signs, I hit some really good shots out there and a bright future.”

Especially after he closed his return event with (a tie for) his best round yet.

A day after windy conditions threw off the 41-year-old and led to a 3-over 75 that Woods actually had to fight to get, he was on form from start to finish.

He started it off by rolling in a 10-foot putt for birdie at the par-5 third and followed with a 12-footer at the par-3 fifth to move 2 under for the day.

The electricity ratcheted up when Woods launched a driver at the 336-yard par-4 seventh and drove the green – with the ball finishing some 25 feet away. He curled in the eagle putt to get himself to 4 under for the round.

He proceeded to close out a 5-under 31 for the second time in three days with a nifty up and down from a bunker at the par-5 ninth. At that point, he was T-4 and five off the lead.

Flying high after a front nine in which he hit all but one fairway and green, Woods got tested when his drive at the par-4 10th finished in a divot and he made a sloppy double bogey after lipping out a 12-footer.

But he rebounded quickly with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 11th. After a nice par save at the par-3 12th, Woods nearly drove the green at the par-4 14th and made a nice pitch to tap-in range to move to 5 under for the round – getting back both strokes he lost at No. 10 within four holes.

Woods birdied the par-5 15th to move to 6 under for the round and then bogeyed the par-3 17th.

It turned into a sloppy bogey-bogey finish when Woods ran a 25-footer some 3 feet by at the par-4 18th and lipped out the par putt. But it was a strong round nonetheless.

For the week, Woods went 69-68-75-68. As we noted, his driving was so good. His approach game was on point most of the week and his putter looked good. He showed his ability to grind is still there when his game faltered. He looked healthy.

Woods also led outright at times in the second round and was in contention through 36 holes.

He finished 10 shots back of winner Rickie Fowler, but IN HIS FIRST START IN 10 MONTHS, Woods bested reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year Justin Thomas by one shot, World No. 1 Dustin Johnson by eight and 2017 U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka by 11.

Still, there’s definitely room for improvement. Woods had serious chipping woes on Thursday and Saturday. And he faded on moving day when he had a chance to position himself for a chance to win. There was also some peculiar course management mistakes at points.

The rust was unmistakable.

“The issue was going to be: 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?” Woods said. “It took a little bit of time.”

All in all, though, Woods is certainly showing signs of being back.

It’s unclear when he’ll tee it up next (although the Farmers Insurance Open would be the best guess), but just knowing that Woods has a future schedule to look forward to is promising.

And it seems life has changed for the better for Woods since his latest surgery.

“When I was struggling with my back, the world seemed very small. Just day-to-day stuff was very difficult for me to do,” Woods said. “Now I’m able to sit back and enjoy a little bit more, talk to more people, go out to more dinners, it’s been really nice.”

With the way his play is looking to, it may only get better.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home