14-Time Major Winner Shows Glimpses Of His Old Self In Return From Long Layoff

By Ann Liguori
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Yes, Tiger Woods looked absolutely solid this past weekend in his first start in 10 months, finishing tied for ninth in the 18-man field at his Hero World Challenge at the Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas.

After a Tiger-filled weekend, I, like anyone who covers golf, feels compelled to weigh in with insight on the player who dominated the game unlike any other. Overall, he ripped his driver, he hit some amazing long iron shots, and he was sharp on the greens. Woods rebounded after a third-round 75 Saturday to shoot a final round 4-under 68, with three birdies and an eagle on the front nine Sunday.

What great news to him and all of golf that he’s pain-free and can go about swinging every club with full confidence. What we saw were “Tiger-like” shots, sharp putting and renewed confidence.

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods plays a bunker shot on the 17th hole during the final round of the Hero World Challenge at Albany course on Dec. 3, 2017, in Nassau, Bahamas. (Photo by Ryan Young/PGA TOUR)

No golfer garners more attention than Woods, so it’s great for golf that he’s healthy and eager to compete and show the young guys a thing or two.

That’s part of his motivation.

“In an ideal world,” Woods said this week, “I would like to have the younger players feel what some of my past guys had to go against all those years. I’d like to have them feel that.”

As sharp as his game looked following such a long layoff — after recuperating from his fourth back surgery in addition to dealing with the aftermath of his Memorial Day DUI arrest and his dependency to pain killers — what was most impressive this weekend was his attitude.

He looked so happy to be back in the mix playing again. He looked positive, congenial, confident, so very sharp, both mentally and physically. He looked joyful.

When was the last time Woods looked joyful? It was good to see.

Woods looked and sounded better than I’ve seen him in a long time. He carried himself like the champion he was. (He won his 14th major title more than nine years ago.)

Even as recently as October at the Presidents Cup at Liberty National, where Woods was an assistant captain of the U.S. team, I thought he looked a bit out of sorts. It was the first time he admitted publicly that he may not play again. As much as he relishes the roles of assistant captains at the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup, and building his friendships with the team, you know he’d rather be playing. And questions about his back obviously still lingered at that point.

But this past weekend, I saw a different Tiger. No disdain. No doubts. His kids were with him. He looks like he’s in a better place.

He alluded to the fact that he’d like his kids to see him play great golf and win again. I’m sure at the top of his mind is showing them how good of a player he was and that he’s actually a decent person and father. It’s never too late to be a responsible parent and positive role model. His entire demeanor looked positive.

And while many are already predicting his future playing schedule and future wins, I say, stop. Don’t put too many expectations on him. Just savor his ability to compete again and enjoy it.

He’ll continue to be golf’s biggest story, win or lose.

Follow Ann on Twitter at @AnnLiguori

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