In April 2017 Tiger Woods announced that he had undergone a fourth back surgery. The surgery, he said, was to alleviate pain which he had been suffering in both his back and in his leg. Previously Woods had only played two events in 2017, missing the cut in San Diego at the Farmers Insurance Open and at the Dubai Desert Classic where he withdrew after his first round due to back spasms. He did not tee it up competitively between then and the time of his surgery.
The golfing world didn’t hear from Tiger again until the end of October when he announced that he would make his long awaited return to action at his foundation’s event the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas. Despite the limited field in this unofficial PGA Tour event of under 30 players, the tournament boasted some of the greatest names in the game, from Rickie Fowler (the eventual winner), Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood.
Over the course of the four rounds Tiger showed signs of his old self, including a 275 yard 2 iron over the back of a par-5 green in two. However he also showed signs of inevitable rust, particularly off the tee which led to a considerably more colourful scorecard than the 14 time Major Champion would have liked to see. However a tied 9th finish against some of the games’ current best showed promise for the great one.
Tiger’s next appearance (and first official PGA Tour start for over 12 months) came at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. It seemed fitting that Tiger’s return to competitive action came here, seeing as he has won at the famous course a record seven times, six of which coming in the Farmers Insurance Open. Recent history of Tiger’s game however has been one that does not include many fairways in regulation, which proved pivotal in halting Tiger’s progression up the leaderboard as his rust was still clear to see, in fact Tiger only hit 17 fairways all week (eight of which coming on the first day!), this number was the lowest of his PGA Tour career, by a staggering 3 shots.
The following week Tiger looked to get his first victory at a course that had eluded him throughout his illustrious career, Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles. However the trend continued and Tiger came in at +6 over the first two rounds to miss the cut.
Last week was the week where Tiger fans and pundits alike began to utter those infamous words ‘is Tiger back?’. A gutsy performance on a PGA National course at the Honda Classic yielded a 12th place finish for Woods, who ranked in the top 5 for both driving and approach shot statistics. Who knows where he could have finished had he holed a few more putts…
This week Tiger has made his debut in the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida. To be honest, it has been like watching vintage Tiger. There hasn’t been a single twinge or wince with pain since his return, he is swinging the club faster than any other player on the tour and his approach play is a joy to watch. Perhaps the most impressive thing is how he hasn’t lost any of his touch around the greens. Florida greens are notorious for being difficult to read and particularly firm. Tiger has been tested on a number of occasions with perilous chip shots but has proved himself well up to the challenge all week long.
Heading in to the weekend Woods was in a tie for second place 2 shots behind leader Corey Conners, but a blistering round of 67 has brought Tiger one shot closer at -8 with just one round to play. Tiger will tee it up at 1:50pm eastern time with good friend Brandt Snedeker.