Albany (The Bahamas): Perfection in the world of sport is notoriously hard to come by, but if one were to understand what it is to even come close, 11:57 am at the Albany golf course was the moment that offered a peek into it.
Tiger Woods teed up the 336 yard par-four seventh hole at the Hero World Challenge here and drove the green. His shot — a “perfect” moonshot — landed on the front of the green and Woods made an eagle putt with an accurate read of speed and distance, dropping to his knees to celebrate the shot. His reaction showed how much mastering the accuracy and distance involved meant to him. It was golf at its best. It didn’t matter that he was tied sixth at that stage at eight-under and wasn’t in contention for the title.
On display were glimpses of the old Tiger and a hint of what could come in future as Woods made a “successful return” to competitive action after 10 months. A 2-iron on the third hole for a birdie, a spectacular eagle on the seventh, the powerful swing and his back holding up well were a few of the many positives that he will carry from this tournament.
And even though it might be too early to say if the golf’s biggest star is back at his best, his show in the four rounds here have sparked hopes of the comeback the world has been waiting for. But first, the day’s numbers.
A spurt of 11 birdies – seven in a row as he opened his final round – carried USA’s Rickie Fowler to a spectacular four-shot win at the Hero World Challenge here on Sunday. En route he set a tournament record with his final round of 11-under 61 and toppled overnight leader Charley Hoffman – who let go off a five-shot lead – to finish at a remarkable 18-under 270 and take home the winner’s prize purse of $1 million.
Fowler made the turn in eight-under 28, leading the field by two strokes and went from strength to strength to finish four ahead of the pack. Hoffman, who had begun with a five-stroke cushion over Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose, posted a final-round even-par 72 to finish second.
Tommy Fleetwood (67) and Spieth (69) were tied third at 12-under and 2016 champion Hideki Matsuyama (68) was tied fifth along with Patrick Reed (68) and Justin Rose (70). Woods shot a four-under-68 in his final round to tie for ninth at 280 (69-68-75-68), good enough to beat half the 18-man field including world no. 1 Dustin Johnson and no. 2 Justin Thomas.
Said Fowler, tied fifth after three rounds, “Obviously, I knew I needed to get off to a hot start today to give myself a chance, and Charley’s been playing some solid golf and I wasn’t expecting him to come back to me. I knew I was going to have to go out and get him. Like I said, get off to a decent start and at least show my face a little bit. I wasn’t expecting seven out of the gate, but I’ll take it.”
He added, “It (the win) was pretty special. Obviously, it’s not a full-field event, but the 18 guys that are here I feel like we’ve all earned our way here. No one gets here by mistake. Even Tiger at 1299, or 1199... He’s inside 1,000 now. He’s trending, he’s going the right way. Especially to have Tiger here this week, him back playing and being able to play the last couple months with him at home and see his potential, it was great.”
Woods’ effort will see him climb to the mid-700s in world rankings from his current 1199. Woods said he “went through the four rounds pain free” and was yet to finalise his plans for 2018.
“We’re going to sit down here and figure out what’s the best way to build my schedule for the major championships, and what my training cycles are going to be. I want to play enough, but not too much. I’ll sit down with the whole team and we’ll figure it out.
“My expectations are we’ll be playing next year. How many, where, I don’t know yet, but we’ll figure it out.” “So is Tiger back?” asked a journalist as Woods made his way to the club house after his final round. Tiger turned around, offered a faint smile and walked away leaving the world to figure out the answer.