WE didn’t buy into all the pre-tournament hype about Tiger Woods’ (latest) comeback but now we’ve actually seen him playing in the final round of a big event in his red shirt we’re prepared to accept the reality of it all.
The 14 time major winner didn’t have such a bad return, scoring a 7-under 65 in the second round of the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas and going on to lead the star studded field in number of birdies over the tournament with 24.
There were a few untidy sevens and things thrown in there as well but for a 40 year old golfer who, as was pointed out about 993 times in the coverage, hadn’t played professionally in 446 days, it was an encouraging start.
Woods (76 final round) finished the event in 15th place at four under for the four rounds, 14 strokes behind winner Hideki Matsuyama (73), who continues to go from strength to strength.
The 24 year old Japanese has long been touted as a future major winner and it can’t be far off. That would make the two dozen or more Japanese media who followed their country’s number one player everywhere he went at Kingston Heath for the recent World Cup very happy.
Matsuyama is on an incredible run, winning four of his last five individual starts worldwide, and putting in an impressive performance with teammate Ryo Ishikawa at the World Cup, where they shot 65 in the final round.
“Starting next week all my focus and preparation will be for the Masters,” Matsuyama said.
“Hopefully, along the way I can play well on the PGA TOUR, but the Masters is my next goal.”
Henrik Stenson (68) was second at 16-under with Matt Kuchar (70), Rickie Fowler (69) and Dustin Johnson (71) tied third on 13-under.
Woods was overall positive about his return.
“I was pleased with how well I got into the competitive flow of the rounds,” he said.
“That was something I was really worried about because I’ve come back of layoffs before and it’s taken me four, five, six holes before I felt comfortable.
“Here, last couple days it was on the first hole; the first day it was on the second hole. That’s nice. That’s how it should be.
“It’s a little different and I’m getting used to that, getting my legs back, getting my body back.
“Trying to manage all the adrenaline dump in the system, trying to calm the nerves, trying to calm the hands, the body, the speed, you’re a club longer even on the range warming up. That’s just different and I had to find that. I found it quickly each day.”
Woods certainly seemed more relaxed than in his previous comebacks. We felt before he looked like he was trying to hit too hard, just overall trying too hard. There’s a lot of us weekend hackers out here who could have warned him about that.