Tiger Woods used the word “ecstatic” to summarize his latest comeback after completing 72 holes in even par in the Hero World Challenge.
Playing for the first time since undergoing fusion surgery to his right ankle after withdrawing from the Masters, Woods finished 18th in the 20-man event with a final-round 72 Sunday at Albany to complete 72 holes at 288. The key, though, was that he completed 72 holes without incident or reinjury to his right leg, which has plagued him since he badly injured it in a single-car accident in 2021.
“I’ve come a long way being a little bit rusty to like four days and knock off a lot of rust, which is great,” said Woods, who turns 48 at the end of the month. “And just the physicality of actually playing and competing again, I’ve done this in once, so it was nice to get out there with the guys and have some fun and compete and I wish I would have played a little better, but always nice.”
Woods made 19 birdies for the week but that was offset by 15 bogeys and two double bogeys. He was particularly displeased with his play on the par-5 holes, where he was three under for the week. The highlight, he said, was his ability to drive the ball. He continued to show plenty of power despite the surgery and long layoff. Among the highlights Sunday was driving the green at the 307-yard 14th hole to set up a two-putt birdie, one of five birdies on the afternoon.
“I drove it on pretty much a string all week,” he said with a big, satisfied grin. “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. 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.”
Next up for Woods is his so-called “fifth major,” the PNC Championship, where Woods can ride in a cart while competing for a third time alongside his 14-year-old son Charlie.
Then he will prepare for the 2024 season. He still believes, as he claimed in his pre-tournament press conference, that competing once a month is a realistic goal.
“I think that if you asked me right now I’m a little sore, but once a month seems reasonable,” said Woods, who had TGR executive and close friend Rob McNamara on the bag but hasn’t figured out yet who will caddie for him next year. “I think that having a couple of weeks off to recover, a week to build up, there’s no reason why I can’t get into a rhythm. It’s just a matter of getting in better shape basically. I feel like my game’s not that far off, but I need to get in better shape.
“That’s what the plan was going into next year and I don’t see why that wouldn’t change.”
Images – Tracy Wilcox