Tiger Woods made an ambitious claim for 2018 that partly overshadowed Rickie Fowlers final-round 61 at the Hero World Challenge
Even Rickie Fowler’s stunning shutting round of 61, which claimed the Hero World Challenge by four shots, was not enough to switch the narrative. Even Tiger Woods’s Sunday 68, entailing three sub-7 0 rounds out of four, failed to be as significant as what came later.
Woods, in the immediate aftermath of his first completed tournament in 12 months, declared his intention to play regularly in 2018. He even, tantalisingly, touched upon his desire to add to a majors carry which currently sits- and seemed destined to close- at 14. Tiger’s back?
” I don’t know what my schedule’s going to be but my expectations are we’ll be playing next year ,” Woods said.” How many, where, I don’t know yet, but we’ll figure it out.
” We’re going to figure out what’s the best style for me to build my schedule for the major championships. Play, how much, what my train cycles are now going, and play enough but don’t play too much. I don’t know what golf course I’ll be playing and what’s the best way to go about it. We’ll sit down with the whole squad and we’ll figure it out- where I’m going to start, how much I’m going to play, rest period, training cycles, the whole nine yards .”
Woods reacted impressively from a third round of 75. He reached the Sunday turn in 31 for the second time in this event, as assisted by an eagle at the 7th. He double-bogeyed the 10 th – his only such score all week- before going on to produce birdies at 11, 14 and 15. Even back-to-back bogeys to finish could not douse Woods’s upbeat mood.
Somehow, this comeback feels different. Woods’s aggregate of eight under par considered him defeat Justin Thomas, the US PGA champion, the world No1 Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, who holds the US Open. Crucially, Woods did not display physical impairment during any phase in the tournament.
” It was a very good week ,” he added.” I’m excited. This is the way I’ve been playing at home and when I came out here and played, I was playing very similar. I wasn’t quite hitting it as far at home but I had the adrenaline going here. Overall I’m very pleased .”
Fowler had started day four at seven under, the same number adrift of Charley Hoffman. A stunning run of seven birdies in as many pits from the 1st propelled the Californian up the leaderboard. Conditions were at their most favourable of the four days, with 15 of the 18 -man field under par, but Fowler’s charge still provided an extraordinary objective to this golfing year. This marked his lowest round as a professional, with the winning total identical to 2016 at 18 under par. Woods, who knows a bit about this kind of thing, hailed Fowler’s proving as “phenomenal”.
Fowler said:” I took five weeks off after the Chairman Cup so I was coming here really trying to rely on my year. It was nice for my game to hang around.
” Hopefully this leads to something special in 2018. I can’t put myself this far back going to get last rounds, 61 s don’t pop up all the time. There are areas that can still get better to help me on the weekends to step up and make things happen .”
Hoffman, who started the final round holding a five-shot lead, finished two clear in second courtesy of a 72. Tommy Fleetwood will be married in the Bahamas; he heads to the altar in fine fettle after a 67 for a share of third alongside Jordan Spieth. Justin Rose’s 70 entailed a share of fifth.
Sky’s Masters deal
Sky Sports is on the verge of agreeing a new deal to cover the Masters, thereby allaying dreads the subscription channel could lose a second major championship. In what marked an embarrassment for Sky after the launch of a dedicated golf station last year, it was subsequently unable to agree a package for the US PGA Championship which, in turn, was encompassed live in the UK by the BBC.
It emerged last summertime that Sky’s Masters contract had ended in 2017 without immediate renewal. Augusta National’s senior figures subsequently tested the market by way of talks with BT Sport during the Open Championship.
But it has emerged Sky has all-but confirmed an extension with Augusta which will, as per typical Masters partnerships , not be on a multiyear basis.” We work on short-term contracts with all of our broadcast partners ,” said an Augusta source.
An interesting caveat to that is Sky’s continuing quest of exclusive Masters rights in the UK, with the BBC currently covering the last two days of the event on a live basis. Whether the corporation can retain that Augusta alliance with Sky hovering remains to be seen. Augusta, as was the case with the R& A with regards the Open Championship, would face a public backlash if its event was removed from free-to-air television.
What happens next with the US PGA will also come under further attention. As things stand, Sky has induced no serious bid to reclaim the fourth major of the year. It may well be that commercial attention was focused on the Masters, while industry sources have suggested Sky may place more value in the US PGA from 2019, when it was taking steps to a slot in May. The BBC’s coverage of last year’s event was widely criticised, albeit it was secured at short notice and in direct scheduling competition to the World Athletics Championships.
Jordan Spieth, meanwhile, has reflected on a year in which he added the Open to his collection of majors. The Texan , now a three-times major champ, rounded off 2017 at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas on Sunday.
” The Open has a pretty significant worldwide reaching ,” Spieth said.” It’s my second favourite tournament in the world behind the Masters. So to win those and a Ryder Cup- which I set various kinds of in a different place- and the US Open, they are kind of top four events in my mind that I can win in my lifetime and that I’ve done that, it’s extremely satisfying. So I look at the year as a whole as a huge, tremendous success. This was one of the better years that I’ll ever have .”
In a further nod to television, and the pulling of Tiger Woods, Golf Channel viewing figures for day one of the Hero World Challenge increased during 27% from 2017. On Thursday afternoon, as Woods made a first start in 10 months, the channel was the most watched cable athletics network in the US.
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