NASSAU, Bahamas — Well, the weather was nice. Millions of dollars were raised for his foundation. And he did drive the ball with authority.
Still, it was one of those weeks for Tiger Woods in the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Club. With a tap-in par on the final hole in Sunday’s final round, Woods shot 1-over-par 73 and finished 17th in the elite field of 18 at the tournament he hosts.
Woods, who battled a cold earlier in the week, had a run-in with a potential rules violation in the second round and couldn’t overcome poor chipping and putting throughout his 72 holes, finished at 1 under for the tournament.
“It was quite awful,” Woods said of his round. “Overall it was a long week.”
Woods beat just Hideki Matsuyama and wound up 19 shots behind winner John Rahm, who closed with a 65 to win by four shots over Tony Finau.
“It was about as perfect as it could be out there today,” said Rahm, who won three events worldwide in 2018 and beat Woods in singles in the Ryder Cup. “That Sunday beating Tiger was special, the most emotional I’ve ever been on the golf course. This is really special. I grew up watching Tiger win so many tournaments.”
While Woods’ week was anything but special, it capped a momentous year. As he headed to Australia on Sunday night for three days of activities dealing with next year’s Presidents Cup (he is the captain of the U.S. squad), Woods will begin to look back and celebrate his remarkable return to the game.
At this tournament last year, Woods was eight months removed from spinal fusion surgery and wondering if he could ever piece together a swing to consistently go toe-to-toe with the best players in the world.
Slowly, he did just that, capping his season with victory in The Tour Championship, his 80th PGA Tour title and first since 2013. He also finished runner-up in the PGA Championship and Valspar Championship, tied for fourth in the Quicken Loans National, tied for fifth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and tied for sixth in the British Open and BMW Championship.
He rose from 1,199th in the world rankings to No. 13.
“This entire year has been amazing,” Woods said. “Just been so blessed to have the opportunity. To come from where I came from last year at this point, to have the ability to actually play and compete again in the game and do it consistently, is quite amazing.”
With him every step of the way was Joe LaCava, his caddie.
“The fact he grinded 100% of the time stood out,” LaCava said. “And when he made changes to his driver and started hitting more fairways, that was huge. I’m not a doctor, but I was pleasantly surprised how healthy he was and how well his body held up at the end of the season when he played 7 of 9 weeks.”
Woods hasn’t started his prep work for 2019 but upon his return from Down Under and a break during the holiday season, he’ll get in the gym to build up his body and to put on weight. He’ll also spend plenty of time on the practice range to test new equipment he might use next year.
Woods hasn’t set his schedule, although he said playing in the four majors and the Genesis Open, which benefits his foundation, is set in stone. He could begin at the Sentry Tournament of Champions the first week of the year. He’ll likely play in the Farmers Insurance Open the last week of January.
“I'm not going to play as many as I did this year,” said Woods, who played in 18 PGA Tour events, the Hero and the Ryder Cup. “All I know is I played too much at the end of the year. That was just too much for my body to handle and I was not physically prepared for it. I hadn't trained for that, so we're going to make some adjustments for next year.”
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