Five things we learned from the return of Tiger Woods at the Hero World Challenge this past week
The 14-time major champion made his long-awaited return from injury in The Bahamas last week, but what can we take from his comeback?
Five things we learned from the return of Tiger Woods to competitive golf at the Hero World Challenge invitational event at par-72 Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas:
There were moments you wanted to fit him for another green jacket. There were moments you wanted him to give it up for good. Woods flashed brilliance and horror and finished on four-under par 284. He shot the worst round of anyone at 76. He led in birdies with 24. He fired a bogey-free 65 in round two that was his best round since the last time he won at the WGC event in Akron back in 2013.
He needs more work. He will put in more work. He needs to find consistency. He needs more events to be tournament fit and avoid fading late in rounds. He was able to make great starts. That could put him ahead in some ways if he can solve other issues. He’s older Tiger, not the Tiger of old. And Albany is not the typical US PGA Tour stop. It’s not going to offer the tension of a Sunday in a major. It’s 18 guys not a full field. It’s not many of those players that Tiger inspired that now block his path to a triumphant return.
“It blew me away.” That’s what Woods said about so many fellow pros offering their support, advice and even just company for a night out. After nearly 20 years of focus and grinding, wins and an intimidating aura, Tiger has learned the man behind the 14 majors and 79 career wins has earned more respect and admiration from his rivals than he ever imagined. Players gave their time to be in his charity events that benefit his foundation. Beyond ‘Tiger Inc.,’ beyond those who can make money with him, Woods has inspired friendship and admiration for who he is as a person. For someone who wondered a year ago if he might never get out of bed easily again, it’s nice to know you have friends.
Woods fired off lots of tweets in his role as Ryder Cup assistant captain. One story told by a rival spoke of how players began tweet-comparing trophy cases and Tiger chimed in with the all-time winner, only to be told he didn’t count. There was a camaraderie built among players and Woods was big on tweeting his thoughts. He even got a supportive tweet from US president-elect Donald Trump. It helped that he was unable to play at the Ryder Cup, so he could focus on players and holes and strategy to help the US victory. But as Tiger becomes an elder statesman – he turns 41 on December 30 – he has a role on the Ryder Cup committee and a new way to channel his competitive golf nature. Beware Europe and you Presidents Cup Internationals as well. Tiger might be more dangerous behind the scenes than as a player in the team events.
His foundation does wonders giving kids opportunities who otherwise would not have them. Education. Dreams. His business world is united under the TGR umbrella, and one venture was showcased this week. He’s a partner in Albany, the exclusive Bahamas area that is remote but growing. Ernie Els helped start it. Justin Rose lives there. Joe Lewis, whose Tavistock Group owns English football side Tottenham Hotspur, helped start it. And it just had a week of free global advertising on golf telecasts of Tiger’s comeback. He’s not worried about lunch money.
He’s taking cold baths. He’s not running so much or lifting weights so much – all those things he did when he was younger that forced rivals to do the same to keep up with him. He’s going to face guys who can do those lifts and runs and can recover faster between rounds. And he wants to win four more majors to catch Jack’s record. He will have to figure out new ways of winning. You could see the process start this week as he layed up at times, trying new ways to negotiate the course and be successful.