Tiger Woods delivered a strong indication he is ready for his comeback after a 16-month layoff when out-driving Olympic champion Justin Rose at Nassau’s Albany Club in the Bahamas on Monday.
The 14-time Major winner makes his long awaited return in the Hero World Challenge starting Thursday, where he will play with American Ryder Cup star Patrick Reed.
He teamed up with Rose, who has been a resident on the exclusive Albany estate for two and a half years, former New York Yankees baseball legend Derek Jeter and fellow World Series winner Tino Martinez.
Woods, who has ‘parked’ his luxury yacht ‘Privacy’ close to Rose’s palatial home on the island, was clearly very relaxed in the company of the three and aside from an errant drive down the left side of the 13th he was in play for much of the nine holes in the sunny but windy conditions.
There were no official scores recorded but it’s understood Woods, wearing shorts, shot a comfortable one-over-par 37 for the nine holes that included two bogeys and a birdie.
Highlight of his nine holes was a 350-yard downwind drive at the par-four 15th that was easily 40 yards further than Rose.
Rose is returning after a seven-week injury absence and looked a lot more rusty than Woods who will tee-up in the 18-man $3 million event in his first appearance since sharing 10th in the Wyndham Championship 465 days ago.
“I was really pleased the way I was striking the ball as I hit it pretty well but then the wind today is expected to come from a different direction on Thursday,” said Woods.
“The greens, and how they’ve set them up at the moment, are a little too quick for this wind and with talk of a storm also coming in on Thursday, they should be perfect.”
It was Woods’ second nine holes on the Ernie Els designed course having played the front nine on Saturday and spending Sunday working on the range.
But if his golf and his positive demeanour is any sign then Woods could surprise many come Thursday’s start to the event.
Woods seems to have gained further strength in chatting at length over the nine holes with both Jeter and Martinez, with Jeter competing in the later stages of his own career with a broken ankle he sustained in October 2012.
– Surgeries –
“That’s one of the things I was talking to Derek and Tino about and that his how long did it take them at the start of each match to get ready to go out and play in each game,” disclosed Woods.
“We all know Derek broke his ankle and in coming back from that he said it used to take him three to four hours just to get prepared for a game.
“I also was discussing that today with ‘Rosey’ (Justin Rose) and he also says he needs to spend upwards of an hour and a half in the gym before he tees-up each day of a tournament given he’s now 36 years of age.
“It’s been the same deal with me and long before I was out injured for this long period.
“We all agreed we missed the times early in our careers when you could just turn up, grab your equipment and just go out and hit a 300-yard drive.
“I can’t do that anymore as I’m at an age where it takes time to prepare as I’ve had like three knee surgeries and also the operations on my back.”