Tiger Woods Impresses In Return To Competitive Golf At 2017 Hero World Challenge

He's back.

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No matter how much time off Tiger Woods has had from competitive golf, and no matter what injury he has had to battle back from, Tiger fans go crazy when he makes his return (that has been the case for quite some time now).

Today was no exception, especially after he shot a 3-under-par 69 in the first round of the 2017 Hero World Challenge.

Whether Tiger finishes in last place or first place at the Hero World Challenge, he is going to be the biggest story in golf, and fans are going to start chanting his name in the process.

Tiger has earned that right, that honor.

After all, he is arguably the best — and most dominant — person to ever play the sport. No, he hasn’t won a major since 2008, but that is not the argument/point here, and that topic is irrelevant until Tiger starts winning some tournaments, and simply shows flashes of his former self in general.

Expectations might still be high for the former No. 1 golfer in the world, but they have been tempered greatly, and that has a lot to do with the fact that Tiger hasn’t played in what feels like a lifetime.

Tiger, believe it or not — because he has dealt with so many injuries over the course of his career (especially in recent memory), and he has been irrelevant for quite some time when it comes to winning tournaments — impressed in his return to competitive golf.

As ESPN’s Bob Harig pointed out, Tiger has been through a lot, but it was, as many fans can probably agree, great to see him back on the golf course.

Given all he’s been through since playing his last tournament 10 months ago, and the lack of time spent preparing for the tournament, it was encouraging first step for the 14-time major champion who was making his first start in 301 days.

Woods hit several excellent drives and approach shots, made a few lengthy putts, but also had the struggles that might be expected: two chunked chip shots, one wild drive that led to a penalty stroke, a few missed opportunities on the greens.

Social media, as can be expected, went crazy when Tiger sunk the putt in the video below:

The Hero World Challenge is not a major, and that is very well known. This tournament should be a big deal for Tiger, though, given the fact that it wasn’t a guarantee that he would even play again. Plus, this 18-person tourney features some of the best players in the world, like Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and many others.

Via the ESPN article mentioned above, Tiger’s time away from golf has led to a major drop in the world rankings. Look no further than below to figure that out:

Woods, 41, is ranked 1,199th in the world as he is making just his 20th worldwide start since the first of his four back surgeries in 2014. Last year, he returned to this same tournament at Albany Golf Club after a 15-month layoff and finished 15th out of 17 players.

Outside of the scorecard, here’s a brief summary on how Tiger actually looked throughout the first round (via golf.com):

Woods opened with a big drive on the 1st hole that took a fortunate kick out of the left rough and ended up 30 yards beyond his playing partner Justin Thomas’s tee shot. After outdriving Thomas again on the 3rd hole, Woods followed up a shaky chip shot by holing a 15-foot putt from the fringe to record his first birdie of the day, punctuating it with a signature fist pump.

Woods made another birdie at the 8th, before dropping his first shot on the par-5 6th hole, thanks primarily to a chunked chip on his third shot. But he bounced back with a birdie at 10 to get back to two under.

While Tiger is not at the top of the leaderboard, he did, once again, impress in his big return. Not to mention, he managed to do so against some of the best golfers in the world (in other words, he is in contention despite the fact that he hasn’t played in so long, and that’s pretty amazing since he’s also going up against some of the game’s best).

While Tiger is no longer the top player in golf, he’s still very much a fan favorite. Bob Harig’s ESPN article really explains — and shows off — why people care about Tiger.

Woods might have endured years of lackluster golf, but his name still packs a powerful punch. He remains among the top endorsers in the game, representing the likes of Nike, TaylorMade, Bridgestone, Hero, Rolex, Monster Energy and Kowa, and his golf course design business is beginning to get traction, with several courses in the works.

Even without playing, Woods ranked fourth on Golf Digest’s annual list of the top-paid players in the game, with more than $36 million in off-the-course earnings, according to the magazine. He trailed only Spieth, the late Arnold Palmer and Phil Mickelson. He was ranked third a year ago and topped the list for years.

More from the ESPN article mentioned above:

Why do we care about Tiger?

“From my viewpoint, you want to see the guy who played the game for a period of time unlike anybody who’s ever played the game,” said former tour player and longtime NBC analyst Gary Koch. “If he has any chance of getting anywhere near back to that form.

“That period of time from the late ’90s through the mid-2000s, the game was played differently than anyone. [Jack] Nicklaus was great and played great for a long period of time. But he didn’t win majors by 10, 15 shots. He didn’t hit some of the shots Tiger hit. He didn’t play some of the short-game shots. For a lot of us, that’s fresh in our memories. You want to see if he can get anywhere near that level.”

We don’t know — heck, no one knows — what is in store for Tiger Woods.

This is what we do know: (1) He is three strokes back of the leader, Tommy Fleetwood, after the first round of the Hero World Challenge. (2) It was great seeing him out on the golf course again.

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