Former world number one Tiger Woods capped his return to competition with a fine four-under par 68 on Sunday as red-hot Rickie Fowler won the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.
Woods, who once wondered if nagging back trouble would spell the end of his career, had an eagle and six birdies to finish 72 holes on eight-under par 280.
That never put him within striking distance of Fowler, who produced a remarkable course-record 61 on the par-72 Albany Golf Club layout.
Fowler birdied the first seven holes, and eight holes on the front nine. After birdies at 11, 13 and 15 was eyeing golf’s magic number of 59.
No more birdies were forthcoming, however, and Fowler settled for a course-record 61 and a total of 18-under 270.
Fowler finished four shots in front of fellow American Charley Hoffman, the overnight leader by five strokes who carded a final-round 72 for 274.
Jordan Spieth, tied for second to start the round, fired a final-round 69 to share third on 276 with England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who signed for a 67.
Woods finished tied for ninth with Matt Kuchar in the unofficial 18-man event that benefits his charitable foundation.
A back-nine double-bogey and two bogeys to finish took some wind out of Woods’s sails, but the 41-year-old superstar, playing for the first time since February after yet another back surgery in April, found plenty to be encouraged about.
Most importantly, he said, he played all week without pain.
“Overall, I’m very pleased. I showed some good signs,” he said, adding that they pointed toward “a bright future”.
Woods’s impressive display off the tee included a monster drive at the par-four seventh that led to his eagle.
That was just one of the shots that delighted an enthusiastic gallery following the 14-time major champion that included Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal.
“I knew I was going to be able to play all four rounds, that wasn’t going to be an issue,” said Woods, who also missed all of the 2015-16 season with back trouble.
“The issue was how my scoring was going to be, how was my feel? How am I going to get used to the adrenaline in my system, because it’s the first time in a while.
“That took a little bit of time,” added Woods, who finished the week with rounds of 69, 68, 75 and 68.
“I was still scratchy with my irons,” he said. “I drove it pretty good all week, made some good putts.”