After four operations on injury problems which can be traced back to the last of his 14 Major victories almost a decade ago, Tiger Woods showed at the Hero World Challenge this week that he is back – and that is exciting.
Woods, who finished tied for ninth in his first competitive 72 holes this year, said he felt that his swing was unimpeded for the first time in years, following chronic back difficulties.
The speed that he was generating was astonishing, up there with any of the other guys in what was a high-quality field in the Bahamas. He looked in great shape too; muscular but without too much body-building bulk.
The most encouraging aspect of his comeback, however, was the sheer quality of his game: with 17 birdies and two eagles, Tiger was averaging more than five birdies a round. He was fantastic and his nerve looked to be good too.
He was better than I had expected him to be and it’s brilliant to hear he’s going to give it everything next year. I’m certainly more confident now that he can get through a whole season.
Woods has had his ups and downs on and off the course but he is still Tiger and we may never again see the like of the golf that he produced during the late 1990s and 2000s. He is a megastar and his return is wonderful news for all of the game.
His fellow players will love it. Many of the younger players on tour may not have seem him in action first hand; now they are getting to play alongside him.
It remains to be seen whether Woods adds to his 79 PGA Tour titles – he is just three short of Sam Snead’s record tally – but his performance over the last few days makes me think he can certainly challenge for tournaments again and maybe even Majors.
He’s still only 41; I’m not putting myself in his bracket but my best season was at 43 and Tiger is a lot fitter than I was.
There is also a Ryder Cup to qualify for and his stint as vice-captain on the winning United States team last time will only have fuelled his desire to be part of next year’s contest in France.
Neither Woods nor anybody else could really get close to Rickie Fowler on Sunday as his streak of eight birdies in the first nine holes propelled him past overnight leader Charley Hoffman.
Hoffman had a poor start and an 18-man field is not the biggest but you still have to shoot the numbers and Fowler was fantastic on his way to an 18-under-par total and a four-shot win at the Hero World Challenge.
When Fowler is hot he is red-hot. He is also probably the best player out there now without a Major to his name. The success of compatriots Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka will have buoyed and annoyed him.
He was top five at the US Open and US PGA this year; he could be in for a big 2018.
Recently-crowned Race To Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood showed he can compete with the best of them by finishing in a share of third behind Hoffman.
Fellow Englishman Justin Rose, who was able to drive to the range in his own golf buggy from his nearby home in the Bahamas, was tied for fifth.
I nearly fell out of my seat when I was watching the week’s European Tour event in Mauritius, where eventual winner Dylan Frittelli at one stage consulted a compass before playing a shot.
Compasses were outlawed but the rules were changed in 2016 and now they can be used to help decide where to aim if you know the wind is blowing in a certain direction. What’s wrong with wetting your finger?
We’ve been talking about slow play being a problem for decades but things like this and green books are hindrances. It needs to be looked it.
Compasses aside, it was a great second win on the tour for Frittelli, who has been spoken about as a successor to the likes of Ernie Els for a few years now in his native South Africa. The 27-year-old looks to be well on his way.