Tiger upbeat on new year

Tiger Woods struggled to a four-over 76 to finish 15th at the at the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas.
Tiger Woods struggled to a four-over 76 to finish 15th at the at the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas.PHOTO: AFP

While pleased with return, he needs to assess condition before deciding on his schedule

NASSAU (The Bahamas) • Tiger Woods was pleased about his return to competition at the Hero World Challenge despite inconsistent play, but has not decided on a specific tournament to continue his comeback.

The 14-time Major champion, who made his comeback after 16 months due to back surgery, struggled to a four-over 76 to finish 15th at the elite 18-man event at Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas.

Woods, who turns 41 later this month, made five birdies, three bogeys and three double-bogeys on his way to finishing 72 holes on four-under 284 - 14 shots behind winner Hideki Matsuyama (73) of Japan, who is now world No. 6.

"Big picture, it feels good to be back out here playing again, competing and trying to beat the best players in the world," he said.

"I missed it. I love it. I'm just so thankful to be back here playing again."

  • FIGURING OUT WOODS' RETURN

  • 24

    Birdies in 72 holes, topping the field.

    76

    His four-over final round was the worst of any player in the four days.

    +6

    He double-bogeyed the par-four 18th thrice, avoiding a blemish only on Friday. As he admitted: "I played the par-fours quite frankly awful."

Woods, the oldest player in the field, made the most birdies for the week at 24. But his final round was also the worst 18 holes anyone shot in the tournament.

"This week was pretty cool because I made some birdies, I felt like I did really well in that regard, but I also made just some really silly mistakes. I played the par-fours quite frankly awful," he said. "It's kind of new to me again, the feeling of playing, the feel of adrenaline in my system, hitting shots... it was tough.

"But I felt like I did some really positive things. I'm pleased about that and I just need to clean it up."

Asked about his plans for next year, Woods added: "In my heart of hearts I would like to play a full schedule next year.

"We're going to sit down. I'll have a couple weeks off, work with my physios, get a little bit stronger and then really assess... what's the plan, what's the smart play?

"Quite frankly, I haven't done it in a while, so we're going to be smart about it. I do not have a plan set for next year yet."

Despite struggling often off the tee and late in rounds, Woods showed flashes of the skills that made him a 14-time Major champion, but he lacked consistency and tournament fitness.

However, he displayed no sign of back pain, a positive portent for those seeking signs he can recapture his once-dominating form.

"Getting my body back and focusing for a long period of time - these are things I've missed for a year and a half," he added.

"There were some pretty dire times when I couldn't move. You just lay there and you can't move - those are scary times.

"So it was nice to hit some balls out there with some aggression again and not have to worry about anything."

Until this week, Woods had not played competitively since August last year, when he shared 10th at the Wyndham Championship.

The former world No. 1 knows that time is not on his side but he intends to play as much tournament golf as he can next year, as he strives to work his way back up the world rankings from a mind-boggling 897th.

"The good thing is that because I have been away for so long, everything I do here I keep accruing (ranking) points," he said.

"If I play halfway decent, I will keep climbing quickly."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 06, 2016, with the headline 'Tiger upbeat on new year'. Print Edition | Subscribe