NASSAU, BAHAMAS – DECEMBER 04: Tiger Woods of the United States catches a golf ball on the first green during the final round of the Hero World Challenge at Albany, The Bahamas on December 4, 2016 in Nassau, Bahamas. Christian Petersen/Getty Images/AFP
Christian Petersen / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP
Tiger Woods struggled through a roller-coaster final round Sunday at the Hero World Challenge, firing a four-over par 76 to conclude his comeback event after a 16-month layoff following back surgery.
Woods, who turns 41 later this month, made five birdies, three bogeys and three double bogeys on his way to finishing 72 holes on four-under 284 at the 18-man invitational event he hosts at Albany Golf Club, a 7,302-yard Bahamas layout designed by Ernie Els.
“It was a great week to be back playing in front of people,” Woods said. “Unfortunately I made a lot of mistakes this week. I made some poor decisions, caught it in the wrong spots.”
Despite clear struggles, Woods showed flashes of the skills that made him a 14-time major champion, but lacked consistency and tournament fitness. He displayed no sign of back pain, a positive portent for those seeking signs he can recapture his once-dominating form.
Woods, the oldest player in the field, made the most birdies for the week at 24. But his final round was also the worst anyone shot in the tournament.
“I made the most birdies this week, which is nice, but also I made some bad mistakes,” Woods said. “It adds up to a pretty high number but I made some nice putts out there.”
Until this week, Woods had not played competitively since August 2015, when he shared 10th at the Wyndham Championship.
Former world number one Woods, who fell to 898th in the rankings, shot 73 Thursday in ending his career-longest 466-day layoff but recovered Friday with a bogey-free 65.
That was his best round relative to par since a 61 at the 2013 World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational, the most recent of his 79 career victories.
Woods, three shy of Sam Snead’s all-time PGA Tour win mark, opened with birdies on four of the first five holes Saturday on the way to a 70 but struggled early Sunday.
Wearing his trademark Sunday red shirt and black pants, Woods began the final round with four pars, leaving a 20-foot birdie putt on the edge of the cup at the first hole then punching out of rough with the tip of his putter at two and sinking a three-foot putt.
Woods found sand off the tee at the par-5 third and left a 30-foot birdie putt just short, then missed left from 15 feet for birdie at the fourth.
Woods took a bogey at the fifth after finding the same bunker from which he holed a chip Saturday. This time he went 10 feet by the cup and missed left on his par putt.
Another tee shot into the sand at the par-5 sixth led Woods to blasting over the green and chipping his fourth shot from off the 13th green on his way to a double bogey.
Woods found another bunker off the tee at seven but blasted out and rolled in the 20-foot putt his first birdie of the day.
A 30-foot birdie putt at the par-3 eighth followed and Woods chipped his third shot at the par-5 ninth just inches from the cup to set up his third consecutive birdie and make the turn level for the round.
– Back-nine nightmare –
But Woods faced more nightmares to begin the back nine. He missed a 10-foot par putt at the 10th and made double bogey at the par-5 11th by finding the native sand and rough beyond the green, then chipping down the far side of the green and missing an eight-foot bogey putt.
Woods missed a three-foot par putt to bogey the par-3 12th before parring 13 to end the slide, then tapping in three-foot birdie putts at 14 and the par-5 15th.
Woods closed with his third double bogey of the tournament at 18, second shot landing against a clump of grass in the natural sand area and his fourth missing the green.