2018 Farmers Insurance Open: Five takeaways from Tiger Woods' big return
Big Cat finished at 3 under in his first event back after a lengthy layoff
Tiger Woods completed his first four-round event on the PGA Tour since August 2015, which in and of itself should be considered a success. Woods ended the week at 3-under 285 after firing a 72 on Sunday, which followed a 72-71-70 start.
It wasn't always pretty, but sometimes it was exceptional, and Woods will finish inside the top 35 in his first lap around an official event in 29 months. There is no world in which this is not a massive victory for Big Cat. He said so himself in his post-round interview with CBS Sports' Dottie Pepper.
"Very pleased," Woods said of his performance. "After not playing for a couple of years and coming out here on [the PGA] Tour and playing a solid four days. I fought hard for these scores. This was a lot of fight."
Here are five takeaways from Woods' first event back since nearly winning the Wyndham Championship in 2015.
1. Driver needs work: Boy does it need work. Woods hit only 17 fairways on the week, and eight (!) of those came on the first day. That means he hit nine of his final 42 fairways, which is not great. Still, his length saved him in a lot of areas. He finished around the top 40 in strokes gained off the tee, simply because he was as long as he has been maybe ever with the big stick.
"Everything [needs work]," said Woods. "Just like it was after I played in the Bahamas. We're going to do the same thing here. I'm excited to play in L.A., though."
The good news? There were moments where he looked like he could hang with the 20-something crowd.
2. Short game portends greatness: Woods missed 30 greens in regulation and made only 11 bogeys. That might not sound elite, but if you saw some of the spots he had to leave to and some of shots he had to hit just to get to those spots, you might think differently about that stat. He was so-so around the greens, but his putter was absolutely fabulous. I have a lot of confidence that Tiger Woods is going to be able to figure out a 42-year-old swing post-four back surgeries. The putter could have been a different story, but I saw a Scotty this week that still has some magic left in it.
3. He had a little zip: Woods had some legitimate eyebrow-raising moments both on Sunday and all week. His wedge and short iron game showed flashes of sharpness that I was not prepared to witness. If he can tighten everything else -- and that's a big if -- this year is going to rock for Big Cat.
4. Ability to score: I watched somebody this week who has one foot in two worlds. The present generation is obsessed with length (and rightfully so), and Woods subscribes to that. But he's also obsessed with scoring in a way I'm not sure younger players are right now. Woods scored from places from which he should not be. He's obsessed with creativity and ingenuity, and it's going to be a hell of a thing to watch a genius playing out the string try to figure out how to score well enough to win at this level.
5. Expectations but understanding: I'll say it. I like the new Tiger. I chuckled when he referenced possibly running down the leaders after trailing by seven going into the final round. "It was tough conditions, it was tough scoring," Woods told Pepper on Sunday. "I wanted to shoot something around 65. I thought that might be a playoff number. But these guys are ... doing well. I was trying to post early and see what might happen."
But he also tempered that by noting he was "very pleased." It's clear Woods understands the long game, even if he remains fully engaged in his present rounds. This is a golfer who can succeed long into the future. The margins are smaller, sure, and the windows tighter. But with his institutional course knowledge and how far he's driving the ball, I have no doubt he contends for at least one win this season, if not several.
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