While he undoubtedly found himself in more pressured situations during his trophy-laden career, Tiger Woods’ return to action at Torrey Pines last weekend would have been a painstaking challenge in itself.
Although he played in the Bahamas in December, Woods’ real litmus test was at the Farmers Insurance Open, as he stepped out for his first PGA Tour event in 12 months since returning from his fourth back surgery.
Golf had plenty of significant stories last week – from Rory McIlroy’s mini-comeback to Jon Rahm’s bid for the world No1 spot, and even the six-hole play-off eventually won by Jason Day – but none were more captivating than Tiger’s return to competitive action in California.
Despite playing the best part of his four rounds out of the rough, the 42-year-old still managed a formidable top-25 finish – his most promising result since finishing in a tie for third at the Wyndham Championship in 2015.
A three-under par 285 may not capture the attention of many golf fans, but on a tough course like Torrey Pines, Tiger’s formidable finish represents another significant tale on his recovery to full-fitness.
Although he missed 30 greens in regulation and posted 11 bogeys, Woods looked impressive when recovering to hit the ball on to the green.
It was the third time since August 2013 that he finished all four rounds at par or better in an official PGA Tour event.
Individual parts of his game like his ball striking need improving – he hit only 17 fairways – but it still proved to be a solid return for Woods.
His wedge and short iron game showed flashes of class – and if he can tighten up these areas further then it could represent a hugely positive year for the 14-time major winner. For a man who has been curtailed by injuries and given his tournament rustiness, his play around the green and putting were superb.
But no matter what he achieves going forward, he will always be Tiger Woods. He will always be that sports star who elevated golf to new heights. He will always be that guy who won the US Open by 15 shots in 2000. There will be greater players to hit the ball than Tiger, but none will leave a greater legacy on the game.
Woods’ next tournament will be at the Genesis Open on February 15 – and will generate the same attention when he steps out alongside Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. It’s difficult to know where his comeback is going, but as a fan, it is hard not to be in awe.
Li Haotong took home more than the Dubai Desert Classic championship trophy after four days of nail-biting golf at the Major of the Middle East.
A single stroke was enough to secure the title for the Chinese star, beating off stiff competition from Rory Mcillroy.
Haotong managed to birdie five of the last seven holes for a 69 and a tournament-record 23 under par.
Following his victory at the Dubai Desert Classic, which was held at the Majlis course at the Emirates Golf Club, Haotong became the first Chinese golfer to break into the world’s top 50. He’s now targeting a debut at The Masters in Augusta.
The victory earned the 22-year-old a trophy, winner’s cheque and an OMEGA Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M Master Chronometer watch.
OMEGA President and CEO Raynald Aeschlimann said: “I’m proud to sincerely congratulate Li Haotong on his win and for treating us all to such world class golf. It’s been a thrill from the first day to the last. OMEGA feels very honoured to be part of this fantastic event, which is a real highlight of the golfing year. This has been the perfect start to 2018 and I wish all the players a fantastic season ahead.”
The OMEGA Dubai Desert Classic has been a part of the European Tour since its inception in 1989. This is the ninth year that OMEGA has been the title sponsor.
Colin Montgomerie has praised Rory McIlroy’s impressive comeback form and believes the Northern Irishman can go on to seal the Masters title in April if he improves his putting.
The 28-year-old finished in a tie for third in Abu Dhabi last week after nearly four months out of the game due to injury.
A fantastic build-up to Augusta waits for McIlroy – which will include another seven tournaments – continuing in Dubai where he is currently tied second after round one.
The four-time major winner posted a stunning opening round 65 – showing flashes of class as he bids to win his third title at Emirates Golf Club.
“Rory is roaring back after 100 days away and a superb tournament last week. Who’s to say he won’t be in Dubai as well? I mean, this is good for the Masters coming up,” Montgomerie said to Sport360.
“I know how much it means to him to win all four Majors. If Rory holes out the way Jordan Spieth or Jan Rahm does right now, he will win the Masters.
“He hits the ball better than anyone through the green, it’s just a matter of getting it in the hole.”
In a Ryder Cup year, McIlroy’s early season form bodes well for a European team aiming to win the cup back from the American’s after suffering a convincing defeat two years ago at Hazeltine.