It didn't end the way he wanted it to, but after shooting 69-68-75-68 this week at the Hero World Challenge, this week has to be considered a success for Tiger Woods. Woods went out in 31 for the second time in three days on Sunday, posting three ...
It didn't end the way he wanted it to, but after shooting 69-68-75-68 this week at the Hero World Challenge, this week has to be considered a success for Tiger Woods.
Woods went out in 31 for the second time in three days on Sunday, posting three birdies and an eagle in which he drove the green on a par 4. He came home in a disappointing 37 that included a double bogey on No. 10 and bogeys at Nos. 17 and 18. The last one was maybe his worst showing of the week as he three-putted from under 30 feet for a five on the par 4.
But for the fourth day in a row, and maybe most importantly of anything all week, Woods was going after shot after shot seemingly as hard as he could. Look at this 3-wood early in his round. This man hasn't played golf in 10 months and had his spine fused together in April!
Woods looked for a second like he might contend with third-round leader Charley Hoffman, who started the day with a 10-shot advantage on him. Eventually he settled at 8 under and finished in tied for ninth place in the 18-golfer field.
Unlike last year when Woods shot 288 (compared to this year's 280), he seemed to get stronger and sharper as the week went on. His short game improved day over day, his iron play got better as the weekend wore on and there were absolutely no moments of fear from either Woods or his fans about a back that has seen four surgeries in recent years.
"I knew I was going to be able to play all four rounds," Woods told Golf Channel. "That wasn't going to be the issue. The issue was going to be how was my scoring going to be. How's 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 scratchy with my irons. I drove it pretty good all week. Made some good putts. Overall, I'm very pleased. I showed some good signs. I hit some really good shots out there. A bright future."
Woods beat the No. 1 player in the world (Dustin Johnson) by eight strokes and the reigning FedEx Cup champion (Justin Thomas) by one. Because of this and because Woods' back held up, this week had to be considered a success.
"No pain, no," Woods confirmed on Golf Channel. "Pain in my head with some of the shots I hit."
All week, though, the golf world (and the sports world) immersed itself in Tiger-mania. Steph Curry and Bo Jackson tweeted about it. Other players in the field (!) were asking for Woods updates when they weren't playing with him. There is now a legitimate reason to be excited about what's to come in 2018 and maybe even beyond. Woods was touched by all the folks interested in his return.
"I do have a better sense of (what this means to people)," he told Golf Channel. When I was struggling with my back, the world seemed very small. Day to day stuff was very difficult for me to do. Now I'm able to sit back and enjoy it a little bit more."
There were some truly spectacular moments this week. Old Tiger stuff. Some 3-woods that he jumped on and chased. Some putts he willed home for a number. Some times when he made you forget there were other players in the field and that, yes, eight of the top 10 golfers in the world were actually competing.
It was enough to get the juices going for next year and to whet the appetite for what could come next.
"We're going to sit down here and figure out what's the best way to build my schedule for the major championships," Woods teased on Golf Channel. "What my training cycles are going to be. Play enough, but don't play too much. I don't know what golf courses I'll be playing. We'll sit down with the whole team and figure it out."
Remember, we've been here before. Woods looked good in spurts at this event last year, and he was on the shelf by early February. But he also wasn't swinging the golf club then like he did this week. A pain-free week with three rounds in the 60s and a top 10 finish in a field this loaded seemingly has Woods brimming with optimism. I can assure you he's not the only one in that camp, either.
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