Woods Kicks Off the Hero World Challenge as a Player and Tournament Host
ALBANY, Bahamas – Last December, Tiger Woods returned to competitive golf at the Hero World Challenge after a 10-month absence and tied for ninth at Albany in the Bahamas.
Woods, coming off spinal fusion surgery in April, wasn’t sure what to expect but held his own against the strong, 18-player field. He posted rounds of 69-68-75-68 to finish at 8-under, 10 strokes behind winner Rickie Fowler, who fired a 61 in the final round to prevail by four shots.
What a difference a year makes.
Woods entered No. 1,199 in the Official World Golf Ranking. This year, he’s No. 13 after a remarkable PGA Tour season that saw him claim the regular-season ending TOUR Championship – his 80th career victory and first in five years – placed second twice and recorded seven top-10 finishes in 18 starts.
Woods completed his 22nd year on the PGA Tour by banking $5.4 million in official earnings.
“I think what I have accomplished has been pretty special,” said Woods, who doubles as tournament host this week.
Woods came within a stroke of capturing his third FedExCup title at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. He made a furious late-season run, competing in seven of the last nine events.
While he hasn’t announced his 2019 schedule, committing only to the Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., Feb. 14-17, which benefits TGR Foundation and the four majors, Woods will likely give himself more time to allow his body to recover. He has undergone four back operations and turns 43 on December 30.
“I took a significant break after the Ryder Cup, got away from it for a bit,” he said. “My training sessions have been good. My core and my legs are definitely stronger than they have been, which is a positive. Now I get started working on my game and getting that organized heading into next year.”
Last week, Woods played against Phil Mickelson in The Match at Shadow Creek Golf Club in Las Vegas. During a practice round prior to the event at The Madison Club in La Quinta, Calf., Woods made his 20th career hole-in-one playing with son Charlie, TGR Vice-President Rob McNamara and Fred Couples.
On Wednesday, Woods played in the Hero pro-am and had 53-year-old Jim Williams of St. Charles, Ill. on the bag. Williams, President of KSA Lighting and Controls, won the job at the annual Tiger Jam in Las Vegas in an auction, which raises money for the TGR Foundation. He paid $50,000.
“Once in a lifetime,” Williams said of the opportunity. “Tiger’s been great. A lot of fun.”
Woods will return to regular looper Joe LaCava on Thursday for the first round and is set to tee off at 12:05 p.m.ET with Justin Thomas. But Woods complimented Williams, a 12-handicapper, for holding his own lugging a tour bag 18 holes in the warm and balmy weather.
“He did a great job, and the main thing is he kept up,” said Woods.
Williams has been a regular supporter of the foundation and enjoyed spending time close up with Woods.
“He’s a regular guy,” Williams said. “He talked about how difficult it is to go out in public, things like that. But he’s just like us. He gets tired, he needs time away. The foundation is a great cause and it’s been a great experience.”
Proceeds from the Hero World Challenge, which began in 1999, go to TGR Foundation. Should Woods win, he will climb to No. 6 in the World Golf Ranking.
The invitation-only event features No. 1-ranked Justin Rose and four of the top five players in the world, including Dustin Johnson (3), Thomas (4) and Bryson DeChambeau (5). Sixteen participants reside in the top-23.
Earlier this year, New Delhi (India)-headquartered Hero MotoCorp announced that it has renewed its association with the tournament and on Tuesday said it had renewed its agreement with Woods as its Global Corporate Partner.
“Tiger is one of the greatest athletes in the history of sports,” said Dr. Pawan Munjal, Chairman, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Hero MotoCorp. “His persona transcends geographical, cultural and generational boundaries. We have had a mutually rewarding association with him over these past four years.”
Hero MotoCorp is the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles and scooters.
“As Brand Hero keeps expanding its global footprint across continents, our aim is to take golf to newer demographics and bring innovations to the game,” Munjal said. “Tiger will continue to play a role in this exciting journey.”