ORLANDO: Tiger Woods walked 18 holes for the first time since the PGA Championship, swinging well in a Wednesday pro-am event ahead of his competitive return at the Hero World Challenge.
Woods, making his return this week after a four-month back injury layoff, made three birdies with a lone bogey, missing four fairways and two greens at Isleworth in the first hint of the form golf fans can expect from him in 2015.
The 14-time major champion, chasing the career record of 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, said he needed the workout more than usual because he had not walked an entire layout since last August, when he missed the cut at the PGA Championship.
“It felt good to be out there,” Woods said. “I felt like I really needed today. It was a nice little indicator.”
Woods, who turns 39 later this month, will tee off alongside Australian Jason Day, who is also returning from a back injury at the 18-player event.
The $3.5 million unofficial tournament that starts on Thursday benefits Woods’ charity foundation.
Former world number one Woods, who stands 24th in this week’s rankings, looked in solid shape in his tuneup round, swinging well without the obvious back pain that had hindered his efforts in much of his injury-trimmed 2014 campaign.
He was joined by new swing consultant Chris Como, hired by Woods last month after a split with swing coach Sean Foley in August.
PGA veteran Steve Stricker said he likes what he has seen so far from Woods.
“He’s one of the best ever and coming back with a lot of anticipation,” Stricker said. “It looks like he’s swinging at it pretty good. It looks similar to the early 2000s to me.”
That’s the time frame in which Woods won four majors in a row and one that still influences his game. Woods said he has looked back at his past styles to revamp his swing without the nagging back and knee injuries that have slowed him in recent seasons.
“It looked a lot freer,” Stricker said. “Didn’t look like he was getting in his way. It looked like it was on a better path. I’m sure he’s going to have some issues going forward. It will be fun to watch it play out and see how he handles it going forward.”