The 2016-17 PGA Tour season doesn’t resume until the first week of January in Hawaii, but there was some palpable buzz throughout the golf world this weekend. The Hero World Challenge, an 18-player competition which annually attracts many of the world’s top golfers, contested this year in the Bahamas at Albany Golf Club, was where a certain nine-time USGA champion decided to make his return to the game after a nearly 16-month hiatus. Tiger Woods, who last competed in the Wyndham Championship in August 2015, made his much-anticipated debut after a long layoff recovering from back surgery. The three-time U.S. Open champion was originally scheduled to return for the Safeway Open in October, but withdrew before the event, saying his game wasn’t quite ready.
So Woods delayed his return until the first week of December at an event that benefits his foundation.
With the golf media documenting his every stroke, Woods showed glimpses of the golfer who has won 14 majors. After opening with a 1-over 73 on Thursday, a round that included a pair of double bogeys over the closing three holes, Woods rallied for a 7-under 65 on Friday. He followed with a 2-under 70, only to shoot a 76 on Sunday to finish 15th at 4-under 284, 14 strokes behind winner Hideki Matsuyama, of Japan.
Nevertheless, Woods, whose last major title came in his playoff victory over Rocco Mediate in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, was happy to foray back into the competitive arena.
“Big picture? It feels good,” said Woods, who will turn 41 on Dec. 30. “It feels good to be back out here playing again, competing and trying to beat the best players in the world. I missed it. I love it.”
Yeah, the back looks OK.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) December 4, 2016
Tiger Woods 💣😳🚀 pic.twitter.com/hh3jt28k6s
Woods was one of six USGA champions in the field, although 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose withdrew after the first round due to a lingering back injury.
Reigning U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson and 1997 U.S. Amateur champion Matt Kuchar tied for third at 13-under 275. Johnson and Matsuyama shared the 36-hole lead at 132, with the former carding a pair 66s before shooting 72-71 on the weekend. Kuchar, the bronze medalist in the 2016 Rio Olympics, posted rounds of 67-67-71-70.
Three-time USGA champion Jordan Spieth and 2003 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Brandt Snedeker tied for sixth at 277.
Spieth was one that was happy to see Woods competing again.
“Personally, I think it’s a fun buzz within the players that aren’t Tiger, because we all want that opportunity to go head to head with him,” said Spieth, the 2015 U.S. Open champion. “That’s why we got into this, not to play for second, but to have a chance to take down one of the top players to ever play the game.”