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Pain Free

In the most anticipated comeback since, well, his comeback in July, Tiger Woods returned to action at his own event, The Hero World Challenge.

Played at Isleworth Golf and Country Club, the event it is not only the course that Woods’ has played more than any other, but he is also the tournament host.

Woods has not played a competitive round since August 9th at the PGA Championship, choosing instead to take time to fully recover from his back surgery in April and to restore his muscle structure.

During that time away, Woods ended his relationship with swing coach #3, Sean Foley, and engaged swing coach #4 (or as he describes the position “my swing consultant”), Chris Como.

Como is largely unheralded, but has been gaining a name for himself with the game’s insiders. The 36-year old Como is based in Plano, Texas and currently works with PGA Tour players, Aaron Baddeley, Jamie Lovemark and Richard Lee. Como is a student of bio-mechanics and eschews one methodology or style preferring to teach each player individually (a good thing).

It is one thing to teach players like Baddeley, but it is entirely another to swim in the fish bowl that Woods’s teachers live in. To quote his new boss after he turned professional almost 20 years ago: “Hello world”.

The changes that Woods has already made with Como were immediately evident as Woods-Version #4 was unveiled in Thursday’s first round. Woods’s posture was noticeably taller and his swing longer and more fluid that it had been for years.

Foley teaches an abridged version of the Stack and Tilt method which puts the player in a much more bent (form the waist) position over the golf ball at address. The angles this creates during the swing puts a lot of strain (see back) on certain parts of the body. It is effectively used by Tour stars, Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan, but Tiger was unable to physically do some of the things that Foley wanted him to do.

Woods hit a lot of good shots during his opening round, but was deserted by his short game. After a lay-off from competitive play, it is normally a players’ touch around the green that takes the longest time to regain. Woods’ 5-over par 77 left him in last place in the 18-man field made up largely of the top players in the world.

A much improved second round of 2-under par, 70 also displayed uncharacteristically poor shots around the green for Woods, but he was encouraged by his play and that he was feeling no pain in his body.

On Saturday, Woods played despite having the flu and a temperature of 102. He would record a 3-under par 69, despite more misplayed chip-shots around the green. Incredibly for Woods, he would muff back-to-back chip shots on the 13th hole in Sunday’s final round making a triple bogey-8 in route to an even par round of 72.

The swing may be beginning to resemble the old Tiger, but his short game left a great deal to be desired as his 4-day tally of 8 “chip yips” bore out. For Woods though this was a positive week because he was able to play pain-free for the first time in a very long time.

The winner of the Hero world Challenge was Jordan Spieth who continued his torrid play of late with a tournament record score of 26-under par. This was Spieth’s second consecutive win after his victory in last week’s Australian Open https://www.birdgolf.com/63-not-3/.