WINDERMERE, Fla. – At least Tiger Woods knows what to address this offseason.
Continuing to struggle on and around the greens, Woods turned one of his cleanest, most efficient rounds into an even-par 72 Sunday at the Hero World Challenge. Only a closing 75 from Hunter Mahan kept Woods (T-17) from finishing alone in last place at his own event at Isleworth.
At even-par 288, Woods was 26 shots behind Jordan Spieth as the leader played the back nine.
“I made some progress,” Woods said. “I hadn’t played in four months and I’m in absolutely no pain, which is nice. To be able to go all-out on some of these drives like I did this week really enforces what I’m doing is the right thing for my body.”
For all of his short-game woes, Woods’ long game continued to impress in the final round, hitting nine of 14 fairways and 11 greens. (He putted for birdie on 14 holes.) Steve Stricker, who was paired with Woods, said that the former world No. 1 was swinging freely and aggressively.
“It feels like he was always trying to steer it in play the last five, six, seven years,” Stricker said. “Today it looked like he really let it go and trusted it, for the most part. I think he feels like it’s headed in the right direction.”
Cruising along at 2 under for the day, Woods’ final round took a turn for the worse on the 13th when he stubbed a pair of shots on his way to a triple-bogey 8. It was his eighth and ninth chunked chips of the week – sixth of which have come on the 13th, a reachable par 5 with a severe slope on the right.
“All it is is practice,” Woods said of his short-game woes. “I’ve just gotta work.”
Said Stricker: “He’s fighting some of those things in his chipping technique that he’s trying to do in his big swing. He’ll be fine. He gets frustrated with it, but he’ll be fine. It looks like he’s swinging at it a lot more aggressively.”
Woods said that he would practice next week and then shut it down for the holidays. After years of being on a ball count or unable to practice fully, he said that he should have no limitations going forward.
“Obviously there are some things that I can do with my short game that I definitely can work on,” Woods said. “Overall, it’s so nice to be able to go out there and hit drives that hard again, take bunkers out of play, cut corners. Hadn’t felt healthy enough to do that in a very long time.”
Woods remained coy about the early part of his 2015 schedule, saying only, “I know it’s a pretty full schedule.”