Rickie Fowler wins Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods makes strong comebackDecember 4, 2017
Seven shots behind overnight leader Charley Hoffman and Rickie Fowler decided the best way to cut the distance was by firing seven straight birdies to start the final round of the Hero World Challenge here on Sunday. He wasn’t done yet — far from it really — and after making the turn at 28, Fowler won the USD 3.5 million invitational meet with a course record 11-under to win by four strokes.
“Nice way to go to Christmas,” said Fowler who turns 29 on December 13 after getting his USD 1m cheque. Asked what he was thinking during that birdie run, Fowler said that “you just kind of ride her till she bucks you.”
Fowler said he knew he had to make a strong start — it was the kind that temporarily put to shade the Tiger Woods’ comeback story of finishing eight-under in his first tournament in 10 months to end tied ninth. “Charley’s been playing some solid golf and I was going to have to go out and get him. Like I said, get off to a decent start and at least show my face a little bit. I wasn’t expecting seven out of the gate, but I’ll take it…,” said Fowler.
Fowler parred on the par-3 eighth but had birdies on the par-5 nine and 11th and the par-4 13th. Hoffman, 40, finished with even par and this would be the fifth time he had led going into Sunday but didn’t win. Before the place emptied with people wishing each other ‘Happy Holidays’ as the moon silhouetted the clouds, Hoffman said: “I just didn’t play as good as I needed to. Mostly, I didn’t think someone’s going to shoot 11 under par. With that, I got sort of steamrolled.”
Before Fowler set the course on fire, Woods too staged a revival that ensured his comeback didn’t go pear-shaped after Saturday’s three-over. He had birdies in the third and fifth, an eagle in the seventh, birdie on ninth to again end the front nine on 31. Woods had birdies in the 11th, 14th and 15th but it was offset by a double bogey on the 10th and two bogeys to end this.
“I am excited. This is the way I’ve been playing at home…I had the adrenaline going and overall I’m very pleased,” said Woods. Speaking to reporters, his caddie Joe LaCava said he was happy with how this event’s turned out and definitely happier than last year. “He would need to be sharper in all areas but we also need to temper expectations.”
LaCava said it is possible that Woods would start training after New Year and play some golf late in January. Woods too said “we’ll figure out where I’m going to start, how much I’m going to play, rest periods, training cycles, the whole nine yards.” Physically, Woods said he felt fine and that he was happy with his driving and putting.
All that points to one thing: 2018 is likely to see the return of Woods. “We want to see him play well. It’s only better for our game,” said Fowler.
FINAL DAY SCORES: 1: 270 — R Fowler (67, 70, 72, 61). 2. 274: C Hoffman (69, 63, 70, 72). T3: 276 — T Fleetwood (66, 69, 74, 67), J Spieth (68, 67, 72, 69). T5: 277: H Matsyuama (71, 66, 72, 68), P Reed (72, 66, 71, 68). J Rose (68, 68, 71, 70). 8: 278: F Molinari (69, 68, 71, 70). T9: 280 T Woods (69, 68, 75, 68), M Kuchar (67, 70, 72, 71). 11: 281 J Thomas (69, 70, 74, 68). T12 — 287 K Kisner (70, 72, 75, 70) A Noren (73, 69, 74, 71). T14:288 : D Berger (75, 73, 70, 70). D Johnson (68, 72, 76, 72).