There are good points from Tiger's return, and then there's reality

From ESPN - December 3, 2017

NASSAU, Bahamas -- The conjecture in golf circles for years typically touched on the idea of Tiger Woods reinventing himself as a golfer, dialing back his power game to be more precise and efficient, highlighting other skills that would still allow him to be successful.

To borrow from the mantra adopted long ago by basketball star Michael Jordan: go from a dunking wizard to a jump shooter.

But if four rounds in the Bahamas showed us anything, Woods still wants to fly with the big boys.

Who knew the 41-year-old would emerge from a 10-month absence with his driver as the best weapon in his arsenal?

There are numerous reasons for Woods to be optimistic after his return to competitive golf at the Hero World Challenge, where a 4-under-par 68 on Sunday at Albany Golf Club helped him finish tied for ninth in the 18-player field.

When doubt persisted about Tiger's ability to play 72 holes or break 80 or any of the other numerous negatives that floated about the Caribbean, to beat the likes of PGA Tour Player of the Year Justin Thomas and No. 1-ranked Dustin Johnson over four days is no small feat.

"I am excited," Woods said afterward. "This is the way I have 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 am very pleased."

The power he unleashed with his driver -- and some of the other shots he launched into orbit with his 2-iron -- was a remarkable sign of renewal, especially if you understand where he has been since the first of four back surgeries in 2014 and all the struggles he has had keeping the ball in play.

Woods had no trouble keeping pace with Thomas, who ranked eighth in driving distance on the PGA Tour in 2017 by averaging nearly 310 yards off the tee. The 2-iron second shot Woods hit at the par-5 third hole -- from 272 yards -- screamed into the air, a towering shot that few in the game possess without a lofted club.

"He looks like he is not coming back from where he has been," said ESPN golf analyst Andy North, a two-time U.S. Open winner. "He looks comfortable, flexible. He has speed."

While there was a sense that Woods would need to beat his younger, accomplished peers with finesse rather than power, having those shots will be significant as he attempts to return to full field events in 2018.

For one, it opens up the possibility of contending on some of the tour's bigger ballparks, not just ones more suited for accuracy and course management -- the default position many expected Woods would need to embrace.


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