“I’m shocked. I’m shocked that he’s got it together like this.”
— Brandel Chamblee on Tiger Woods’ performance.
The Tiger Wood Love-Fest is over.
At least for the time-being.
While the other 17 players at the Hero World Challenge quietly went about their business, Tiger Woods loudly re-entered the golf limelight the past four days. He made his somewhat triumphant return to competitive golf and in the process, checked a lot of boxes.
— Played all four rounds without any physical problems. Check.
— Showed outstanding distance off the tee. Check.
— Shot well under par for the 72 holes. Check.
— Beat some really good players. Check.
— Putted decent. Check.
— Looked strong, totally recovered from his last back surgery. Check.
— Ready to compete and be a factor in a real PGA Tour event? Not so fast.
Maybe the biggest takeaway from the Four Days Of Tiger is that the guy smiled a lot, he was cordial to people and appeared to enjoy himself for a change.
“Playing all four rounds wasn’t an issue,” Woods declared after shooting eight-under par for the event with rounds of 69-68-75-68. “Overall I’m very pleased I showed some good signs out there. Drove it well, putted okay, a little scratchy with my irons — a bright future.”
Good news is there was never a wince or any physical sign of any sort of discomfort when Woods hit his driver and irons.
His short game showed some obvious rust but he still managed to beat some world-class players despite his struggles in the wind that blew on Saturday.
He beat No. 3 Justin Thomas (7-under), world’s No. 1 Dustin Johnson (even par) and No. 7 Brooks Koepka (three-over).
Woods was excited that he was three-shots out of the lead after day one but he lost ground as the event progressed. He was five back after 36 holes, 10 back after 54. He finished 11 behind winner Rickie Fowler. “It’s phenomenal golf,” Woods said of Fowler’s Sunday performance.
Speaking of Rickie Fowler, Woods thanked him and some of the other players who live near him for helping him get ready for this event.
So much attention was focused on Woods that Fowler may have shot the quietest 61 this season. Fowler was splendid on Sunday with birdies on eight of his first nine holes for a mind-boggling 28.
For Woods, he devoured being the center of attention once again. “Very flattering,” he said after athletes and celebrities from all over the country were taking notice of his decent play.
Now that Woods has shown he’s healthy, the looming question is obvious:
What’s next for Eldrick?
When asked, Woods reverted to his old, elusive self:
“We’ll sit down and figure the best way to build my schedule for the major championships,” Woods said, saying he’d consult with “my team,” which no doubt is a team of one — The Great Stiney — aka agent Mark Steinberg.
This revitalized Tiger Woods will have to make a schedule different from what he’s used to. He’ll move up in the World Rankings and will move inside the top 700 but that’s a long way from the top 60 where he needs to be to play in his favorite non-majors — those no-cut WGC events.
Best guess is that he’ll be in the field at Torrey Pines for the Farmers in late January. Other than that, it’s a tough call to predict where he might show up.
As for what’s in store in 2018?
We’ll defer to the greatest living player, Jack Nicklaus:
“Tiger’s healthy and happy and that’s the beginning of great golf.”