You knew this was coming. You knew, after two spectacular days of golf at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods was due for a comedown. And Saturday, it arrived, a dull thud of a round. After carding a 69 and a 68 to start the weekend, Woods turned in a three-over 75 on Saturday that cooled a touch of the heat surrounding his return to professional golf. He now sits at -4 for the tournament, tied for 10th and nine strokes behind leader Charley Hoffman.
“Anything that I did right ended up in a bad spot,” Woods said. “Everything I did wrong was really bad.”
The day didn’t begin with much promise. Woods bogeyed four of his first seven and carded a four-over front nine, which meant that, including his back nine on Friday, he put together the equivalent of a rather nasty six-over round over the middle of the weekend. A couple of late birdies on 14 and 17 helped clean up the look of the day.
“It’s ridiculous it took me 14 holes to make a birdie,” Woods said. “It’s just one of those days.”
It’s tempting to consider this a step back, but that’s only because Woods leaped so far forward in his first two days back from a 301-day surgery-and-rehab-induced layoff. Prior to Thursday, if you’d given odds that Woods would be 4-under and tied for 10th at the end of the day on Saturday, any sane bettor would’ve jumped on that.
There’s still a long way to go for Woods in his return, but those looking for positive signs can find a few: he settled down on the back nine, going 2-under over the last eight holes of the round. Plus, the windy conditions affected the entire field; only four players played under par, with Daniel Berger (-2) the best of the bunch. Woods is also at the moment one stroke better than the defending PGA Championship winner (Justin Thomas), four strokes better than the world No. 1 (Dustin Johnson), and six strokes better than the defending U.S. Open champion (Brooks Koepka). They aren’t laying down for Woods; they’re getting outplayed by him.
The Hero World Challenge ends Sunday, along with Phase 1 of Woods’ comeback. We don’t know where we’ll see him next, but we know that so far, the comeback’s been a reasonable success, if not a total one.
“It feels good to be out here fighting again,” Woods said. “I’ve missed the fight. Getting out there and competing, fighting against the golf course and the rest of the guys — it’s so much fun. I missed doing this.”