Assessing Tiger's Comeback Performance
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
It may only have been an invitation event with a field of 18 (reduced to 17 when Justin Rose's back injury flared again and he was forced to withdraw), but for Tiger Woods the Hero World Challenge marked a long-awaited comeback. Would his body and his swing hold out? Would he still be able to produce the old magic? He didn't do too badly in the end, did he? We kept a close eye on him and here's what we saw...
Tiger looked genuinely happy to be back in action and clearly enjoyed playing in front of a gallery again. For once, he inter-acted with the fans and enjoyed the attention. Perhaps he has finally learned to enjoy the adulation. And he did lose his temper when he hit poor shots - so you can be 100% sure that he still cares. A LOT!
When we last saw him he could barely pitch to save his life, chunking chips, thinning straightforward shots across the green and even failing to get out of bunkers. It would be wrong to say that he has put all of this behind him, but things looked better. However, it was noticeable that he opted to hit low raking pitch and runs where, at his peak, he would have thrown the ball high in the air and stopped it beside the hole. His putting looks solid but there remains a frailty that wasn't there 10 years ago.
Woods will never be the straightest driver on the planet, and he no longer hits the ball as far as he once did. But he still hits it plenty far enough and knows that he cannot keep up with the likes of Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy. Using a TaylorMade driver and fairway woods for the first time, he admitted that they had a different feel and will take some getting used to
His distance control was first class and he very nearly had a hole in one during the second round - what a story that would have been. He is still playing with his old Nike irons, but this looked like the best part of his game
The best news of all is that not once did we see him wince, and he did hit several recovery shots from some pretty horrible places. He now knows his physical limitations so perhaps he has finally put the injuries behind him. We must all hope so
For the most part, Tiger swung the club smoothly and well within himself. His bad shots were all a result of swing the driver too fast and quite clearly attempting to hit the ball too hard. This is where those around him have a big role to play - if they can persuade him to stop going after the ball then he will be just fine
Tiger’s swing looks pretty good. pic.twitter.com/SdHcs88NKt— Adam Sarson (@Adam_Sarson) December 3, 2016
There were several, none more so than the bunker shot he holed for a birdie at the fifth hole during the third round, the iron shot that almost disappeared for a hole in one and a couple of fantastic putts that he appeared to will into the hole
You can get 66/1 on Woods to win The Masters in 2017. He is highly unlikely to do so, but an each-way bet at those odds seems like a no-brainer. And one decent performance in a full-field event will see those odds tumble. Get on him now, while you can
Is he back to his best? No, he is some way short of that. But that is hardly surprising since it is 16 months since his last competitive round, and his form then was hardly inspiring. But there were plenty of encouraging signs. He made lots of birdies, holed his share of putts. He is almost 41 and we are unlikely to see the Tiger of old ever again.But if he can stay fit he will definitely win more tournaments and overtake Sam Snead's record. However, winning more majors is a different matter altogether.
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