Scottie Schleffer won the event by three strokes from Sepp Straka – but let’s be honest, that wasn’t what we tuned in for! It was Sunday night and Tiger had the traditional red shirt on, that’s what we all wanted to see and given his lengthy absence he can be rightfully encouraged after four rounds of the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
Woods didn’t set the host Albany course alight but there were enough spot fires over his four rounds to suggest that he can compete at the game’s highest level going forward if, as he says, any future schedule may just include one ‘big’ tournament a month.
The effort handed Woods 18th place in the elite $US4.5m 20-player field competing again on the host Albany course.
This past week was Woods’ first event of any kind since withdrawing after two completed rounds at the Masters, with Woods signing for scores of 75, 70, 71 and a closing 72 for a level par tally.
The golf world had been waiting for this week, ever since the welcome announcement on November 18th that Woods would be returning to competition.
It was, of course, never really going to be a winning display but just to see Woods again walking without limp or strain on the fairways in formal competition was worth the wait.
“I think the best part of the week is the way I drove it. I drove it on pretty much a string all week. Granted, these fairways are big”, said Woods.
“I felt like I had my ball speed up, which was nice, and I was hitting the middle of the face the entire week, which is nice.
“So it’s not like I have to go and try and find something the next few weeks or something going into next year; what I’ve been working on is right there and maybe just tighten up a little bit”.
There were some shots of brilliance to remind us that Woods ‘still has it’ while there was, as he has been saying after each round, still much rust in this game.
Over the four rounds, Woods produced 19 birdies with his best run of holes easily the opening seven on day two, posting four birdies to be four-under while his poorest was Woods’ on Thursday when he played holes 15 to 17 at four over – double-bogey, bogey, bogey
It had been 235 days since Woods touched down in the Bahamas after having withdrawn early on day three of the rain-affected Masters.
It’s now just 11 days till he’s joined by son Charlie, combining again to contest the December 14th commencing PNC Championship.
Should all go well, it will then be a further 52 days till Woods is likely to kick-start what will be his 29th PGA Tour career season at the February 12th commencing Genesis Invitational in suburban Santa Monica.
Woods’ best ‘lines’ from the 2023 Hero World Challenge
Tuesday, November 28th
“I can tell you this, I don’t have any of the pain that I had at Augusta or pre that in my ankle“, Woods on the state of his health.
“I’m frustrated in some of the slowness and the governance change that we want to have happen”, Woods when asked if he was pleased the direction the Tour was taking,
“That must never happen again” …. Woods responding to the events of June 6th when the PGA Tour tweeted shock news of a proposed deal with the Saudi-backed PIF that would bring men’s pro golf warring bodies to working together.
Thursday, November 30th – First round 73
“I’m sore, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve got some work to do tonight.”
“I wanted to compete, I wanted to play. I felt like I was ready to compete and play. I hit it solid most of the day. As I said, I just didn’t mentally do the things I normally would do and I need to do”, after his first round.
Friday, December 1st – Second round 70
“It was better than yesterday, for sure. I’ve been more committed than I was yesterday. I made a few mistakes and overall the round was better, for sure“.
“I haven’t played in six months. Things are not as sharp as they normally would be. Hey, it certainly — there’s some good in there and just got to make sure that the good is more consistent than it has been”.
“I’m hitting the ball further now than I did in ’96 when I first came out on Tour, but that’s not because of power, it’s just because of tech. You give me that ball that I hit back then and my driver and that shaft, it doesn’t go what it does now.
I’ve always been for bifurcation. I’ve always said that. Just like (baseball) wood bats and metal bats”.
“I was the longest on Tour and now I’m just above average with the ball being longer at the same time. The whole field’s gotten longer”, Woods backing moves in 2028 to restrict the distance the golf ball is hit in formal competiton.
Saturday, December 2nd – Third round 71
“It’s not bothering me, no. The foot’s not bothering me, but other parts are”.
“I’m very excited at how I have felt physically. Knocking off some rust”.
Sunday, December 3rd – Fourth round 72
“I think the best part of the week is the way I drove it. I drove it on prett much a string all week. Granted, these fairways are big. I felt like I had my ball speed up, which was nice, and I was hitting the middle of the face the entire week, which is nice”, said Woods when asked to comment on the best part of his game.
“I’m ecstatic how the week turned out not just from me playing but I think organizationally of the event and how everything’s been run. Just the whole week has been very smooth and I think everyone here has enjoyed it”, the last question to Woods when asked his thoughts on the week.