He may not be back at the top of the leaderboard – or even on the second page – but he proved over the last four days in the Bahamas that not only is he healthy enough to play golf, but that he belongs among the world's best.
Hideki Matsuyama held on despite a 1-over 73 on Sunday to win the Hero World Challenge at 18-under par, 14 shots ahead of Woods, who carded his worst score of the week (76) to come in 15th.
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Still, the goal for Woods entering the week wasn't to win, but simply to finish, and he was thrilled with how his first event back went.
“I’m ecstatic. I’m psyched that I was able to compete and play again.
…. I missed it. I love it. I've been doing it for a very long time and this stretch where I've been off for almost a year and a half has been rough, and the last few years have been rough. I've had some very, very difficult times and have some great friends that have helped me over the times to get me to this point and I'm just so thankful to be back here playing again.”
Woods also revealed that he dealt with an illness around Thanksgiving and subsequently lost 10 pounds leading up to the tournament, chalking many of his “silly mistakes” to exhaustion and not being in golf shape. It was a roller-coaster ride of a tournament for Woods, who made more birdies than anyone in the field … but also carded eight bogeys and six double-bogeys, including three on Sunday.
It remains to be seen when Tiger will play again, but he has four full months to prepare for Augusta National – and for the first time in a long time, it's safe to get excited about Tiger chasing Jack Nicklaus' major record.