I’m not sure what everyone hoped for or expected, but Tiger Woods’ health and game appears as good as one could have wished for given his extensive layoff from competitive play–even with the predicted rust affecting the short game.
“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.”
That folks wasn’t hyperbole. Woods smashed drives and had few hiccups outside of some chunky chips on damp Bermuda grass into its grain. The scores of 69-68-75-68 put him 9th in the 18-man field. The only time it looked like he was still recuperating was gingerly taking the tee from the ground.
Meaning, Woods’ -9 beat the Tour player of the year (Justin Thomas) by one shot, the #1 player in the world (Dustin Johnson) by eight shots and the reigning U.S. Open champ (Brooks Koepka) by 11! Brooks finished last but still pocketed $100,000. Not a terrible consolation prize.
Oh, in case anyone cared, Rickie Fowler won the event with a closing 61 (including 7-straight birdies to start) by overcoming a 7-shot deficit to Charlie Hoffman to win by four.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 3, 2017
Even GolfChannel’s Brandel Chamblee was impressed–and ultimately admitted he was wrong about Tiger’s game. Good for Brandel.
Golfweek’s Kevin Casey wrote at while the rust was evident, it was also reassuring that for the moment, Woods finished in good health, spirits and game.
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.”
“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.”
Las Vegas noticed (as did Tiger’s devoted fans) to drop Woods’ odds on winning next April’s Masters from 100/1, 50/1 to currently 15/1.
GolfDigest.com’s Alex Myers has the details on how much Woods’ World Ranking improved.
With a T-9 in the 18-man event in the Bahamas, Woods moved up 631 spots. The 14-time major champ is now ranked No. 668 after entering the week at No. 1,199. It’s a similar position to where Woods finished 2016 (No. 652) in the OWGR.
The best Woods could’ve moved up was to 135th in the OWGR with a win.
The question now is when will Tiger enter the next full field event? Chances are he’ll head to Torrey Pines for the Farmers Insurance Open Jan 25-28. I can almost guarantee he won’t be enduring any trans continental flights (Dubai?) as he no doubt remember how much that affected his back flying for 12+ straight hours.
Bottom line is this latest return was as good as anyone could reasonably have expected. Booming drives, long and straight approaches and not cratering or WD on the weekend is a major step forward. If Woods can continue pain-free AND keep his more friendly, gracious demeanor, this is huge news for the golf world. As one who regularly follows the sport, that hopefully delivers some euphoric news moving forward.