MIAMI: Tiger Woods capped his return to competition with a fine four-under par 68 on Sunday (Monday in Manila) as red-hot Rickie Fowler won the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
Former world number one Woods, who once wondered if nagging back trouble would spell the end of his career, had an eagle and six birdies to finish 72 holes on eight-under par 280.
That never put him within striking distance of Fowler, who produced a remarkable course-record 61 on the par-72 Albany Golf Club layout.
Fowler birdied the first seven holes, and eight in total on the front nine. After birdies at 11, 13 and 15, he was eyeing golf’s magic number of 59.
No more birdies were forthcoming, however, and Fowler settled for a course-record 61 and an 18-under total of 270.
Fowler finished four shots in front of fellow American Charley Hoffman, the overnight leader by five strokes, who carded a final-round 72.
“I knew I needed to get off to a quick start today to at least show Charley I was there,” said Fowler, who started the day seven shots adrift. “”We took care of that and kept it rolling from there.”
Fowler was disappointed with his par at the eighth, where he had hoped to improve on his career-best birdie streak.
“Seven (birdies) was the most I had made (in a row) before, so I was really trying to get that eighth,” he said. “Didn’t want to get too greedy, just tried to make it with good speed, but ultimately left it short.”
Jordan Spieth, tied for second to start the round, fired a final-round 69 to share third with England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who signed for a 67.
Woods finished tied for ninth with Matt Kuchar in the unofficial 18-man event that benefits his charitable foundation.
A back-nine double-bogey and two bogeys to finish took some wind out of Woods’s sails, but the 41-year-old superstar, playing for the first time since February after yet another back surgery in April, found plenty to be encouraged about.
Most importantly, he said, he played all week without pain.
“Overall, I’m very pleased. I showed some good signs,” he said, adding that they pointed toward “a bright future.”