Not only did he complete 72 holes Sunday with nothing approaching a wince or a grimace — well, not on account of any back problems, anyway — he did so having notched more birdies, 24, than anyone else in the stellar 17-man field.
Isn’t that amazing after 15 months away and against birdie merchants of the calibre of Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson and the winner of the event, Hideki Matsuyama?
The fact that Woods did not come close to the total of 18 under par mustered by the brilliant Japanese in claiming his fourth victory in his last five starts — in the other he finished second — was on account of a horrific six double-bogeys during the four rounds, including three in an untidy closing 76 Sunday.
But isn’t that entirely understandable after 466 days without feeling the heat of competition? Three of them came at the 18th and some of that was surely down to mental and physical fatigue after so long away.
We knew there would be plenty of rust. The two great imponderables were whether his back would stand up to four successive days of play and whether his good golf was still good enough to compete with the best.
That he ticked both boxes with a flourish ought to leave not only Woods excited about 2017 but anyone who loves sport.
When it was over, Woods opened up on what it meant to him to be back. ‘The last year and a half has tested me beyond anything that I’ve experienced in my lifetime,’ admitted Tiger, who will turn 41 later this month.
‘There were dire times when I couldn’t move and the pain was hard to bear. Only those people who have been through such back issues will know what I mean. So to battle to be here, it feels great to be back.’
Asked to assess his golf over the week, Woods said: ‘I’m pleased with all the birdies but I made some poor decisions, missed in the wrong spots and made an awful lot of mistakes. I made two sevens on par fives today, made three double-bogeys on the 18th hole alone during the week and you can’t do that.
‘Frankly, it feels weird to be walking again and playing. I’ve been practising while driving in a cart so now I need to get my legs back and cut out the errors.’
Woods added that he hoped to play a full schedule next year, beginning in California next month. ‘We’re going to be smart about it heading to the Masters,’ he said.
Original source: It’s been a tough road back, says Tiger