Tiger Woods passes the test of mind over matter at Albany. There is light at the end of the tunnel
Woods finished 18th in a 20-player field but that was least important considering he was playing competitive golf for the first time since April this year
It would not be an exaggeration to say that the golf world breathed a collective sigh of relief when Tiger Woods successfully completed his fourth and final round of the Hero World Challenge in Albany, the Bahamas on Sunday.
Woods finished 18th in a 20-player field but that was the least important thing considering the 15-time major winner was playing competitive golf for the first time since April earlier this year. Fans just wanted to see whether Woods would be able to survive all four days of intense action at the invitational event he himself hosts -- since he still appeared to have some kind of minor discomfort while walking.
At the Masters, when the last time he was seen participating in a competitive tournament, he had to pull out in the third round due to heel injury. He then had to undergo ankle surgery a few days later. In fact, since his car crash in early 2021, he had been able to play all four rounds just twice in five appearances. In Albany, it was the third time since that unfortunate accident that he played all four rounds. And that’s what Tiger Woods’ fans, rather golf fans, would have hoped for to begin with.
It was a satisfactory outing by all means. On Thursday, Woods didn’t look too bad. Many had feared he would be all over the place but he managed to score four birdies. If he had not dropped four shots from 15th to 17th holes, he could have done so much better than his three-over-par for the day. In the second round, he went one better in terms of the number of birdies he scored, that is 5. A 2-under-par 70 meant he was now one over par after two rounds.
In the no-cut event, Woods produced another under-par round on Saturday with the help of another five birdies and took his overall score to an even-par 216. The fourth and final round was an even par. For the third successive round, he scored five birdies and finished better than 2023 US Open champion Wyndham Clark and Will Zalatoris, another player returning to competitive golf after several months.
All through his outing at the Albany Golf Club, he teed off well but the rest of the shots were often not so convincing, particularly the approach shot -- which is understandable in light of the nature of his injuries and long break.
But one thing was evident that Woods was not defensive at all. One would not expect that kind of approach from a player coming from a long lay-off and still facing some critical problems. He showed a lot of intent and as a result, he birdied and bogeyed quite a lot, 19 birdies against 15 bogies and 2 double bogies (on Day 1 and Day 4). That’s Woods for you. All through his career, he has played to win. He has no defensive bone in his body. 'I'm very pleasantly surprised at how I've recovered every day. I still have the game; it's whether the body can do it or not," Woods said during the course of the tournament.
Woods has revealed his plans that he is looking to play just one competitive event per month in the upcoming season so that he can prolong his golfing career. He understands that with all the injury issues he is facing, he can't play one tournament after another. The 47-year-old also understands even that approach might not work at the end of it all. In the previous comebacks after the crash, he didn’t last long on the golf course.
The 82-time PGA Tour winner will next be seen at the 36-hole PNC Championship at Orlando in mid-December. It's a family event where he will pair up with his precocious son Charlie Woods. It should not be taxing too much since it's more of a friendly event.
Even though the clouds of worry haven't entirely blown over, fans are happy that he is at last back. There hasn't been a bigger star in golf than Woods at least in the last three decades. His name is synonymous with golf and again it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that the game at present needs him more than he needs the game.