WINDERMERE, Fla. – It’s easy to look at Tiger Woods’ share of last place at his own Hero World Challenge – which included a collection of gruesome chip shots and some balky short putting - and insist that there’s cause for immediate concern heading into the 2015 campaign.
It’s even easier to prohibit the pessimism.
That’s because for as long as Woods has been having a microphone shoved in front of his face, he’s confessed that he wants his game to peak four times per year.
No offense to his own tourney, but early December decidedly isn’t one of those times.
The simple truth is that Woods’ recent work with new swing consultant Chris Como wasn’t supposed to come to fruition this week. It was always meant as part of the process to get him back to winning major championships, a drought which will reach seven years when the calendar turns over in a few weeks.
As Woods has often maintained and even any untrained observer will attest, nothing prepares a player better for winning major championships than similarly winning other tournaments. Which is to say, a victory at Isleworth this week would have obviously been more beneficial than a T-17 in the 18-man field, but neither precludes nor prevents future titles.
“I've been in this position before,” Woods said after rounds of 77-70-69-72. “You know, I've been hurt. I've been out of it for a long time. I've had to make my run to get back there. It takes winning. I was out for a while with my Achilles, and in two years I won eight times. It's a process to get back to that level. You got to build up to it.
He then paused briefly and acknowledged his target without directly saying it: “I’ve got some time.”
That time will come four months from now, when the Masters begins his next set of majors, the next opportunity to turn his career odometer over from 14 to 15.
If he’s still finishing in last place while struggling with his short game when that week rolls around, sound the alarms. Until then, as he’ll gladly contend, it’s all just a part of the process.