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Despite sluggish finish Woods pleased with comeback

TIGER Woods played his worst round of the week Sunday but was pleased with his performance in his first event back in more than a year.

IT was his worst round of the week but a Sunday 76 didn’t dampen Tiger Woods’ enthusiasm after completing his first competitive tournament for almost 16 months.

The former World Number One finished 15th in the 18-man field at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas but remained upbeat after the week.

“It was a great week,” he said. “To be back playing again and competing against the best players in the world.

After opening with round of 73-65-70, Woods struggled on the final day but described the week as a success despite making ‘a lot of mistakes’.

 “I made a lot of birdies (24- the most of any player in the field) but I also made a lot of mistakes,” the 40-year-old said.

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“I made some poor decisions. I hit the ball in some wrong spots. Quite frankly, it feels a little weird not playing better.

“I’ll have to get used to that. It feels a little different getting my legs back and getting my body back and focussing for a long period of time.

“These are all things I’ve missed for a year and a half.”

Woods’ return to the game overshadowed another exceptional performance by rising Japanese superstar Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama.

The 24-year-old shot a final round 73 to beat home fast finishing Open champion Henrik Stenson by two shots.

Matsuyama has won four of his last five individual tournaments and stamped himself as one of golf's most exciting emerging talents.

However, the week was all about Woods who was making a comeback after spending 466 days recovering from multiple back surgeries.

Although yet to announce his 2017 schedule, the 14-time major winner is optimistic about his future.

Woods, who will turn 41 on December 30, said his aggression and confidence allowed him to make a lot of birdies this week.

“But also I made some bad mistakes, frankly,” he said.

“Today I had two sevens (double bogeys at six and 11) and another double banger at 18 (after his tee shot finished unplayable in a bush).

“So three doubles today. It adds up to a pretty high number.”

But after each setback on Sunday, Woods showed glimpses of the old Tiger, bouncing back with three straight birdies at seven, eight and nine before consecutive birdies at 14 and 15.

“But the flipside (of the mistakes) is I was able to be aggressive and make some birdie putts,” he added.

“I just need to balance it out.”

Woods said getting back to where he is “has tested me beyond anything I have experienced in my life.”

“The pain, the issues I had, it was just rough,” he said.

“To battle back, battle through it, to have the friends I have who have supported me (and) helped me through it.

“Quite frankly, there were some pretty dire times there where I just couldn’t move.

“Anyone who has had a back injury like that (knows) you just lie there and you can’t move. Those are scary times.”

Woods - who hasn't won a major since the 2008 US Open - has said he is ready to conquer Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major victories.

To do it, Woods will have to join an elite group of golfers who have won multiple majors aged 41 or over, including Old Tom Morris, Harry Vardon, Mark O’Meara and Julius Boros. Nicklaus won his last major at Augusta in 1986 at the age of 46.

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Mick Davis