No pain, all gain for Tiger Woods in his latest golf comeback

In Depth: Rickie Fowler wins in the Bahamas but Tiger’s return leaves fans purring

Tiger Woods Rickie Fowler golf Hero World Challenge
Tournament host Tiger Woods with Hero World Challenge winner Rickie Fowler
(Image credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Rickie Fowler may have won the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas this weekend but it’s Tiger Woods’s return to competitive golf that has hit the headlines.

Before playing his first tournament for ten months – and after undergoing spinal fusion surgery – Woods told the pre-tournament press gathering to give him a “little bit of time” before giving any verdicts on his play and overall fitness.

But after rounds of 69, 68, 75 and 68 gave him a tie for ninth in the 18-man event, golf media, fans and players wasted little time in declaring: Tiger Woods is back.

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Golfweek says Woods “roared back to relevance” by providing plenty of “blasts from the pasts” and “upbeat glimpses” into his future back on the course. USA Today says the golfing legend has “reason for optimism” after finishing eight-under in the tournament, in Albany.

“I’m excited,” Woods said after his fourth round. “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.

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“I really drove it well and I really putted well. I know I had one day where I didn’t have the speed on the greens, but I hit a lot of good putts this week.”

Having achieved a positive result in his comeback tournament, what’s next for Woods? The golfer says that while his schedule for 2018 is not yet in place, he’s planning to play at next year’s majors.

“I don’t know what my schedule’s going to be but my expectations are we’ll be playing next year,” Woods said, according to The Guardian. “How many, where, I don’t know yet, but we’ll figure it out.”

With major championships ahead, his schedule needs careful thought.

“I don’t know what golf courses I’ll be playing and what’s the best way to go about it,” Woods added. “We’ll sit down with the whole team and we’ll figure it out – where I’m going to start, how much I’m going to play, rest periods, training cycles, the whole nine yards.”

PGA player of the year Justin Thomas told the Associated Press that next year will be “fun” if Woods continues his road to recovery.

“He’s obviously a lot more upbeat, a lot more positive, a lot healthier than he was last year at this time,” said Thomas, who was paired with Woods in the first and final rounds of the Hero World Challenge.

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“He’s got a lot of energy. It’s just so weird to say that you’re excited for somebody else’s year, but it will be a fun year. And I hope we duel it out a lot this upcoming year.”

However, while players and media are excited to see Woods return to the course, Yahoo! Sports’s Jay Busbee notes that golf has “changed” and the 41-year-old is “trying to catch up to sprinters from a standing start”.

“Before anyone starts fitting Woods for another green jacket, though, it’s worth remembering that golf as a sport didn’t exactly stand still while Woods got his life back together,” Busbee says.

“The sport got younger, stronger and much, much better. For evidence, look no further than up the leaderboard at the Hero World Challenge, where Rickie Fowler, who grew up idolising Woods, reeled off ten birdies in his first 13 holes.”

Busbee concedes that victory isn’t Woods’s goal – at least not yet. “He cleared by a mile his first hurdle: four days without his back detonating. He’ll figure out from here what needs improvement, but he’s got a foundation now that he didn’t have before.”

With pundits, players and fans are talking about Tiger’s return to golf, here are some of the best reactions on Twitter:

PGA Tour posted Woods’s highlights – and there were plenty to enjoy.

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American golfer Bubba Watson is looking for a new playing partner…

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South African golfer Ernie Els praises Woods.

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One fan can’t wait to see Tiger dominate again.

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Former coach Butch Harmon isn’t surprised by Woods’s achievements.

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Swing for success?

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The Tiger-effect for golf business.

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One golfing legend talks about another.

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Not many fans were following the world No. 1.

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