It was a long wait, but it finally came to an end last month.
At long last, Tiger Woods is officially back on the golf course in a competitive capacity.
There was something of a false start back in the fall, when Woods, who had previously indicated his intention to play in October’s PGA Tour season-opening Safeway Open, ultimately passed on playing. But a few weeks later, he committed to play in December’s star-studded, 18-player Hero World Challenge, the event for which he serves as host.
When Woods teed it up on Dec. 1, it marked the end of a 15-month layoff from professional golf — and the end of 15 months of intense speculation about his ability to continue to play quality golf at the world’s highest level at the age of 40 and after multiple microdiscectomy surgeries. Fans and media alike had been divided into two camps — those who believe he’s capable of winning on Tour and perhaps adding to his career total of 14 majors, and those who feel his best days are decidedly behind him and that he’s going to be reduced to a more or less ceremonial role in the game for the rest of his playing days.
So which Tiger Woods showed up to Albany Golf Club in the Bahamas? It depends on your point of view, but on balance there seemed to be a lot more reason for optimism about Woods’ game than many expected, with the acknowledgment that there’s some rust still to knock off his golf game.
Woods started with a very promising first nine; at one point he was briefly tied for the lead at four under par. He would struggle on the inward nine, ultimately shooting a one-over-par 73, which gave fans plenty of hope about the state of Woods’ game.
The former longtime best golfer on the planet put a real charge into the golf world in his second round, when he shot a seven-under-par 65, the third-lowest score of the day. A third-round 70 was solid if unspectacular, but Woods backtracked a bit on Sunday, shooting a 76 to finish 15th at four-under-par 284. All in all, it was an encouraging first outing, one where Woods put himself in position to succeed while playing a relatively easy and familiar course.
Woods’ next start in a professional golf tournament is somewhat unclear, but he has committed to play in February’s Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club, where he made his first-ever PGA Tour start a quarter-century ago in the 1992 L.A. Open. He has traditionally started his season at the late-January Farmers Insurance Open at his beloved Torrey Pines, but he has yet to commit.
Whenever Woods tees it up next, you can bet it will be a major happening in golf. I can’t wait.