Almost ten months have passed and golf has once again seen an emblematic image of this century: Tiger Woods in red and black on the last date of a tournament. El Tigre completed his competitive return this Sunday after withdrawing from the Masters last April (although he did finish the Genesis in February), at the Hero World Challenge, where the 20 best golfers in the world met in an unofficial event, but with points of ranking.
A comeback that left him in 18th place, both on the last day and in the total, and that shows more lights than shadows for the 2024 season.
Tiger Woods, results
Most importantly, the California native managed to complete all 72 holes, which at this point is no guarantee given his deteriorating health.
And the most surprising thing is that he did it without the constant grimacing of pain that he used to have a few months ago (although he was seen stretching several times during the round). This is a great sign for the tournament that he himself has set as a "realistic" scenario for next year, a goal that he reaffirmed this Sunday: "Right now I am quite sore.
I will need a couple of weeks to recover. But my plan for "Next year is to play once a month, and that continues to be my goal," he said. In short, Tiger Woods' return was long awaited, and while his performance was not outstanding, his ability to complete the 72 holes is a positive indicator for the future.
We will closely follow his next movements on the playing field! This week's takeaways, both positive and negative, stem from in-game performance. Although he had a poor first round of 3-over 75, which he improved with a 70, 71 and 72 in the following rounds, the inactivity affected him on the second nine holes.
He himself recognized it and said that the problem was in his mental aspect: "I just didn't fully engage with what he was doing and feeling." In short, he made mental mistakes that he normally doesn't make due to mental rust.
Despite all this, Tiger demonstrated his intelligence by responding "me" to Justin Thomas when he asked who needed an ice bath. Through this, we can see that the pain is present, but Tiger handles it more discreetly. It is important to note that Tiger has an advantage in two aspects that are fundamental in today's golf: distance and greens.
During this week, Tiger has been the eighth longest hitter at the event, with an average of 305 yards (279 meters) in tee shots, and the fourth in strokes gained off the tee, with 3.6. In terms of putts per green, Tiger is in twelfth place with 1.67.
While this statistic is good, it would definitely improve if it reflected his ability to make big putts. This is the aspect in which Tiger most resembles the best Tiger of the past. This Sunday's performance was one of ups and downs for our protagonist, who started with a double bogey at 2 and closed tied with the Albany Golf Course.
However, he managed to recover after making five birdies and three bogeys, with an outstanding putt from 10 meters on hole 5, followed by another three and a half on hole 6 and saving a par from three and four meters on holes 7 and 9 respectively.
It remains to be seen what he will be able to do as he perfects his strategy and precision with the irons. As for the winner of the tournament, Scottie Scheffler, 24, shone with a final score of -20 to consolidate himself at the top of the podium.
Despite missing a birdie putt from less than three feet on the 17th hole, he partially solved his putting problems, especially at short distances, that plagued him last season. This is his third victory of the year, although not as significant as those achieved in Phoenix and The Players.
In addition, the Norwegian Viktor Hovland also had an outstanding performance, achieving a -9 to -9, 63 strokes, flirting at times with a 62 and approaching the event record established in 2017 by Rickie Fowler with 61 strokes.
Although the attention of the tournament was focused on the participation of the 47-year-old veteran Tigre Woods, playing sporadically, the performance of these young talents demonstrated that the future of golf is promising.