Tiger Woods’ big talk the sign everyone has been waiting for
NASSAU, Bahamas — The state of Tiger Woods — post 15-month tournament layoff — can be characterized best by the following question-and-answer exchange at this week’s Hero World Challenge.
“What do you feel like has been the strength of your game this week?’’ Woods was asked.
“My mind,’’ Woods said.
“Can you elaborate on that?’’
“Always has been,’’ Woods said.
If the kind of interview exchange with Woods sounds familiar, it should.
Woods is cocksure again. His competitive arrogance has returned. And that’s a sign of better things to come for him after he closed out a 15th-place finish in the Hero on Sunday with a final-round 76 at Albany Golf Club.
A year ago at this event, which is hosted by Woods with proceeds benefitting his foundation, he spoke like a defeated man. His body language screamed concession.
Still saddled with the back-injury complications that kept him away from tournament golf since August 2015, Woods said at that time he could barely get out of bed, had little to look forward to and, if he was able to compete again, anything beyond the 79 tournaments (including 14 majors) he has won would be “gravy.’’
Those were alarming words — words that seemed to signify the end of one of the most brilliant golf careers ever.
But this week at Albany, an uber-exclusive playground for multi-millionaires where Woods and a number of fellow players own homes, Woods proved his playing career is definitely not over.
The returns on Woods’ week — from him, his caddie, Joe LaCava, and the other players in the field — were universally positive. The statistical result — Woods finishing higher than only two players in the field and 14 shots behind winner Hideki Matsuyama — somewhat belied what took place over 72 holes.
Woods had as many birdies for the week (24) as Matsuyama did. But he also had six double bogeys (three of which came on No. 18) and eight bogeys.
“I made a lot of birdies, but also made a lot of mistakes,’’ Woods said.
Woods always used to measure the success of a tournament week by whether he was loading the winner’s trophy into his courtesy car on Sunday night. Expectations, however, have changed with the times and the multiple back surgeries he’s endured.
“Getting back to this point is beyond anything that I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime,’’ Woods said. “The pain issues that I had, it was rough. Quite frankly, there were some pretty dire times where I just couldn’t move.’’