WINDEMERE, Florida (AP) – Tiger Woods appears to be on the road to recovery again, only it’s no longer a question of how soon before he reaches full speed.
There are a lot more cars on the road now. Faster ones, too.
Woods acknowledged as much before the Hero World Challenge began when he jokingly said, “Father Time remains undefeated.”
He still has plenty of power when he’s healthy and swings freely. But there’s a long list of players who hit it farther.
“We all eventually are losing some of the things we are able to do when we were younger,” Woods said.
“But there’s other ways to go around a golf course. … You can win at a very late age because you don’t have to physically dominate anybody. You don’t have to physically beat anybody. You just have to beat the golf course.”
That’s a recipe for winning, but not for being the best in the sport.
That label belongs to 25-year-old Rory McIlroy, an undisputed title at the moment. The most consistent threat in the majors this year was 25-year-old Rickie Fowler, who played in the final group twice and finished in the top five in all of them.
The latest arrival is 21-year-old Jordan Spieth, who showed off his potential not because of the fields he beat (strength or size) but because of the stamps in his passport.
In three weeks in three corners of the world, Spieth finished one shot out of a playoff in Japan, won by six shots in the Australian Open against a field that included McIlroy and Adam Scott, and then overwhelmed an 18-man field of top-50 players in Florida with a 10-shot victory.
One of the more telling comments after he won at Isleworth was how Spieth defined his target.
“In order to take it to the next level and try and win majors, I’ve got to look to Rory,” Spieth said. “He’s the youngest guy, the one with the most success. He’s No 1 in the world and setting the bar. He’s the one we’re all chasing.”
Woods is now part of the chase.
He did not say where he would start in 2015, but here’s a sobering thought: If Woods does not play better than he did at Isleworth, there’s a mathematical chance he’ll fall out of the top 50 by March and not be eligible for the first World Golf Championship at Doral.