LOS ANGELES — Tiger Woods was far from consistent this week.
Sure, he had several incredible stretches of golf. He even posted a 4-under 67, his best round since his car crash two years ago, on Saturday. But he couldn't string more than one round together, and Sunday was a perfect example of that.
Woods finished the Genesis Invitational with a final-round 73, which dropped him to 1-under for the week. He made five bogeys on the day, and frequently struggled around the greens, specifically with his putter, something he’s complained about all week.
But in the grand scheme of things, Woods was happy walking off the green at Riviera Country Club on Sunday afternoon — and he should be. He finished a full tournament, his first one in seven months, under par. He looked more and more comfortable as the week went on.
And while he’s far from winning his own event, a return to a somewhat-regular golf routine that can live up to Woods’ own high standards seems very possible in the months to come.
“It was progress, but obviously I didn’t win,” Woods said. “My streak continues here at Riv. I felt like the first couple days I left certainly a lot of shots out there with some putts, especially Friday when I was blocking everything. Yesterday was better. Still wish I could have gotten within a touch of the leaders, but today they’re running away with it … I think it’s a good win all around.”
What’s next for Tiger Woods?
Woods will now head home from Los Angeles needing time to recover. The 47-year-old was visibly in pain after walking 72 holes in four days, something he’s rarely done in the past two years.
Though he’s doing everything he can to prepare for the grind of walking a tournament, there’s only so much he can do on his own.
“It certainly was a little bit more difficult than I probably let on,” Woods said. “My team has been fantastic in getting my body recovered day to day and getting me ready to play each and every day.
“That's the hard part that I can't simulate at home. Even if I played four days at home, it's not the same as adrenaline, it's not the same as the system being ramped up like that, the intensity, just the focus that it takes to play at this level. I'm very good at simulating that at home, but it's just not the same as being out here and doing it.”
He hasn’t ruled out playing sooner, but Woods has said repeatedly for months that his goal is simply to play in all four major championships, “and maybe a couple more.” That’d leave the Masters in April as his likely next stop.
If he were to tee it up again before Augusta National, it’d probably be at The Players Championship, though the timing may be tight. There are just two tournaments between now and then in early March, which doesn’t leave him too much time to recover properly. That process between rounds has been grueling and full of ice, he said, and it’s going to take him at least several days to properly reset.
“I pretty much lay in ice pretty much all night. It's not fun, very cold all the time,” Woods said. “And then treatment, then getting muscles activated and go back and hop in the cold again. The ebb and flow of that, it's hard. It's hard mentally, it's hard physically.”
But just being out on the course even with all of the extra work his body needs to make it happen was something Woods has missed.
The treatments are worth it.
“To be out here competitively is different. I miss the fraternity of the guys,” Woods said. “Because I haven't played a lot in the last few years, there's a tremendous amount of turnover … There's a lot of new faces out here that are going to be the future of our tour that I got a chance to see and play with. It's neat to see the turnover. It's neat to see the guys who are playing the best right now. You look at what Rahmbo has been doing, what Max [Homa] has been doing this year, to see them rise on a golf course like this, this is what it's all about.”
If he’s able to stay healthy and be prepared to compete at TPC Sawgrass, the consistency could be huge for his game come April. Having to get back into the groove of competing on Tour was something Woods admittedly struggled with.
But it’s all going to come down to his health, and that’s probably not changing for the rest of his playing career. That’s his future now, and he’s OK with it. After everything he’s accomplished, he doesn’t need to push it.
“My back the way it is, all the surgeries I had on my back, my leg the way it is, I just can't [try to play much more than the majors],” he said. “That's just going to be my future … I know that and I understand that. That’s just my reality.”