Getty Images

Hero comeback a success for healthy Woods

By Rex HoggardDecember 3, 2017, 10:00 pm

NASSAU, Bahamas – Decked out in his signature red and black and replete with a confidence that transcended his spot on the leaderboard, Tiger Woods offered a wry smile as he made his way to Sunday’s award ceremony at the Hero World Challenge.

He’s wasn’t a winner, but he was far from a ceremonial golfer, which was the fear held by some following his fourth back procedure in April.

When scorecards are reviewed years from now it will be that opening-nine 40 on Saturday that derailed any chance for the Cinderella story that will stand out, but it wasn’t that windswept effort on Day 3, or even his spirtied finish on Sunday, that provided the final snapshot of Woods’ first start in 301 days.

His tie for ninth place at Albany, a full 10 shots behind champion Rickie Fowler, tells only a fraction of the tale. For four days, Woods drove the ball as well as he has in a decade, putted better than his final statistics might suggest and largely controlled his golf ball with the notable exception of his opening loop on Saturday.

“This is the way I've been playing at home and when I came out here and played, I was playing very similar to this. Not quite hitting it as far, but I had the adrenaline going and overall I'm very pleased,” Woods said following a final-round 68.

It was well documented that Woods’ short game wasn’t exactly in midseason form, but then the rust from 10 months of competitive inactivity would always manifest itself within the blades of Albany’s grainy Bermuda grass collection areas. He also didn’t appear entirely comfortable playing shots into right-to-left gusts, but that’s nothing a few more trips around a tournament course can’t cure.

No, what mattered on Sunday was the same thing that was crucial on Monday when he set out on his 10th professional comeback following a break of 10 weeks or more – the long-term prognosis.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how was the pain?

The response, however anecdotal, came early on Sunday as Woods bounded off the first tee to catch up with playing partner Justin Thomas. It wasn’t that long ago when prolonged periods of sitting were unheard of because of the discomfort and pain it caused. That he’s now able to throttle a 3-iron with the force of a man half his age was the essence of his Bahamas experiment.

Last year when he finished 15th at the Hero World Challenge there was a general air of optimism after a similar injury-induced layoff, but that comeback lasted just three more competitive rounds before he went back on the disabled list. This iteration feels different, for an assortment of reasons, but mostly because of that favorable bill of health.


Hero World Challenge: Articles, photos and video

Full-field scores from the Hero World Challenge


Woods played nine consecutive days before teeing off for Thursday’s opening frame, a self-imposed endurance test to prove to himself he was ready.

His surgeon had given him the green light to begin golf activities, his trainer had provided additional moral and physical support, but he needed to see for himself if his body, broken and battered for so long, could answer the call.

“I'm excited the way this week has gone,” said Woods, whose relaxed demeanor matched his dramatically improved quality of life. “I’m excited with not only the competitive rounds but also all the functions at night. I still got my training in. It was a very good week.”

There was no false hope, no bravado, no excuses, just an honest assessment of his game, a game that had more unknowns before this week’s member-member than the College Football Playoff selection process.

From an objectively competitive point of view, the current generation of stars who have largely never played against Woods at his best have no interest in slowing down – Fowler did, after all, birdie eight of his first nine holes on Sunday on his way to victory – but there’s no shelf life on talent and anyone who doesn’t believe in Woods’ desire wasn’t paying attention.

The answers Woods needed couldn’t be found in an MRI machine or back at home in South Florida playing “friendlies” at Medalist. Those truths could only be discovered on the physical scorecard that 72 holes of tournament golf can provide.

“No doubt about it,” Patrick Reed said when asked if the happy host could win in 2018. “Just hopefully he’s not winning any of the events I’m playing because I plan on beating him every week. It’s awesome to see him back playing well. What I saw on Monday when we played a practice round was effortless power.”

Woods largely stayed on message throughout the week, making numerous references to “coming out on the good side” of what has been a trying year that began with his withdrawal from the Dubai Desert Classic after just one round in February which led to the surgeon’s table and eventually a messy arrest for DUI on Memorial Day.

We may never truly know the physical and mental toll 2017 had on the 14-time major champion, but if the smile etched into Woods’ face as he presented the champion’s hardware to Fowler was any indication, there was no better tonic than what was, by all accounts, a successful rehab start.

It will be seven weeks before Woods’ next presumed start at the Farmers Insurance Open in January. Time to reflect, time to refine and, most importantly, time to reassess what’s possible with a clean bill of health.

Getty Images

Lewis wins Portugal Masters for second time

By Associated PressSeptember 23, 2018, 6:19 pm

VILAMOURA, Portugal – Tom Lewis won the Portugal Masters for a second time after shooting a 5-under 66 in Sunday's final round.

Lewis finished three strokes ahead of fellow Englishman Eddie Pepperell (67) and Australia's Lucas Herbert (71).

Sergio Garcia prepared for the Ryder Cup next weekend with a 65 to finish seven strokes behind Lewis.

Lewis made six birdies along with a single bogey on No. 10 to finish the tournament at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course on 22-under 262.

Herbert led through the first three rounds only to struggle on the final day. He hit a double bogey on the final hole to finish the round on par.

Lewis had trailed Herbert by nine shots after the first round.

''It's been a rough ride but this week I played hard,'' Lewis said. ''I obviously got off to a bad start, to finish the way I've been finishing has been brilliant.''

Lewis first won the tournament in 2011.

''I think this one means more,'' Lewis said, ''it means a lot to come and win this again.''

Getty Images

Tiger Tracker: Tour Championship

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 23, 2018, 3:00 pm

Tiger Woods began the final round of the Tour Championship with a three-shot lead, and he's cruising at East Lake. We're tracking him.


Getty Images

Rose tries to ignore scenarios, focus on winning

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:59 am

ATLANTA – No one has more to play for than Justin Rose on Sunday at the Tour Championship.

The Englishman will begin the day three strokes behind front-runner Tiger Woods after a third-round 68 that could have been much worse after he began his day with back-to-back bogeys.

Winning the tournament will be Rose’s top priority, but there’s also the lingering question of the FedExCup and the $10 million bonus, which he is currently projected to claim.


Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“The way I look at tomorrow is that I have many scenarios in play. I have the FedExCup in play. I have all of that to distract me,” Rose said. “But yet, I'm three back. I think that's my objective tomorrow is to come out and play good, positive golf and try and chase down the leader and win this golf tournament. I think in some ways that'll help my other task of trying to win the FedExCup. It'll keep me on the front foot and playing positive golf.”

Although there are many scenarios for Rose to win the season-long title, if Woods wins the Tour Championship, Rose would need to finish fifth or better to claim the cup.

There’s also the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking to consider. Rose overtook Dustin Johnson for No. 1 in the world with his runner-up finish at the BMW Championship two weeks ago. He will retain the top spot unless Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka or Johnson win the finale and he falls down the leaderboard on Sunday.

Getty Images

McIlroy needs putter to heat up to catch Woods

By Rex HoggardSeptember 23, 2018, 12:29 am

ATLANTA – Although Rory McIlroy is three strokes behind Tiger Woods at the Tour Championship and tied for second place he had the look of a man with a secret when he left East Lake on Saturday.

Trying to play catch up against Woods is never ideal, but McIlroy’s confidence stemmed from a tee-to-green game that has been unrivaled for three days.

“I definitely think today and the first day were similar,” said McIlroy, whose 66 included birdies at two of his final three holes. “I gave myself plenty of chances, and I think the biggest thing today was only just that one bogey. Got to put your ball in the fairway, put yourself in position, and for the most part, I did that today.”


Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


For the week McIlroy ranks first in strokes gained: off the tee, third in strokes gained: approach to the green and second in greens in regulation. But to catch Woods, who he will be paired with, he’ll need a much better day on the greens.

The Northern Irishman needed 30 putts on Day 2 and ranks 23rd, out of 30 players, in strokes gained: putting.

McIlroy skipped the first playoff event, opting instead for an extra week at home to work on his swing and the move has paid off.

“I hit the ball well. My wedge play has been really good,” he said. “I've done a lot of work on it the last few weeks, and it seems to have paid off.”