Tiger Woods ended his 2016 Hero World Challenge on a down note. Woods, who played brilliantly at times through the first three days, laid his first egg since returning with a 76 on Sunday that included three double bogeys.
The 4-over score was the worst round anyone had in any single round this week in the Bahamas, and it dropped Woods, who finished at 4 under, all the way to 15th on the leaderboard (out of 17). He defeated only Russell Knox and Emiliano Grillo.
Woods only made seven pars on the day as he filled his colorful scorecard with wild and crooked numbers. He had three consecutive birdies (and five overall) to go along with all the doubles.
"It was a great week to be back -- playing again and competing, playing against the best players in the world," Woods said after his round. "Unfortunately, I made a lot of mistakes this week. I made a lot of birdies, but I made a lot of mistakes. I made some poor decisions."
Woods is right on both accounts. Nobody in the field had more birdies than his 24. That is not a typo. Woods led the field in birdies made with 24. He also finished last in the field with six double bogeys. There were, frankly, not enough pars on Woods' scorecard.
"I made some birdies this week which was nice," Woods added. "This course allows one to be aggressive. I made some bad mistakes, too. Three doubles today, it adds up to a pretty high number. I made some birdies, too. I need to balance it out."
A number of those came on the 18th hole which Woods played in 6 over (!) on the week.
To be clear about this, I do not care about what Woods' scorecard said all week. I don't care about the 76 on Sunday or the 65 on Friday. None of it matters. What matters is that Woods showed three parts of his game that portend well for the future.
- A willingness to take shorter swings and control the ball
- A red-hot putter
- An ability to get through 72 holes while pummeling drives and showing no signs of injury whatsoever
It is the third point that is probably the most important. Woods was going after some drives this week. But as juiced up as he was on the tee box, he was just as calm and nuanced with his iron play. It was a performance I would have expected three months from now but not this week.
When Tiger Woods hits a perfect drive ... we can tell. https://t.co/ikiiZbHtRo— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 4, 2016
I'm not sure Woods expected it either.
"It feels a little weird to not play in a cart," said Woods. "Getting my legs back, getting my body back, this part of it, getting back to this point has tested [me] beyond anything I've experienced in my lifetime. The pain, the issues I have, it was just rough. To battle back, to battle through it ... there were some pretty dire times there where I couldn't move. Those are scary times."
"Quite frankly ... it feels a little weird not to play in a cart."— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 4, 2016
Tiger reflects on his return to competition. https://t.co/4gy9k9VtrA
But he is on the other side of them, and now he has 72 holes under his belt to prove it. The 2017 calendar year remains a question mark for Woods but not in the way we thought a few months ago. The questions now are where he will make starts, not if those starts will even happen at all.
TW says no specific target for his next start but hopes for a "full" schedule in 2017. "We're going to be smart about it" leading to Masters— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) December 4, 2016
That is a great thing if you're a Tiger Woods fan, golf fan or even just a sports fan. Woods is suddenly hurtling towards the 2017 Masters with a lot more momentum than he had a week or a month ago. This week's Hero World Challenge might have shown that he has a long way to go on the course, but it at least provided a glimmer that there is a path to future success.
Getting there will be, as Tiger loves to say, a process.