Flaming orange Fowler sizzles with 61 as Woods pleased with return to golf at Hero World Challenge

Dec 05, 2017, 12:47 IST | V Krishnaswamy

It was fitting that Rickie Fowler rallied from way back to win the Hero World Challenge on Sunday. Tiger Woods has often mentioned Fowler's name among youngsters, who have encouraged and practiced with him him to make a strong comeback

It was fitting that Rickie Fowler rallied from way back to win the Hero World Challenge on Sunday. Tiger Woods has often mentioned Fowler's name among youngsters, who have encouraged and practiced with him him to make a strong comeback. So it was just right that Fowler won Wood's cherished event. On Sunday, when golf fans would have loved to a golfer in red stride the 18th fairway to complete a dram win, they were served with an equally pleasing sight of a younger man clad in his trademark flaming orange blaze the Albany golf course with eight birdies, seven on the first seven holes, enroute to a record 11-under 61. That saw Fowler race from seven behind third round leader Charley Hoffman (72) to four ahead and win comfortably. With a 59 in sight, Fowler chose to focus on winning rather than the rarefied zone of a sub-60.

Rickie Fowler of the United States poses with the trophy after winning the Hero World Challenge at Albany, Bahamas on December 3, 2017 in Nassau, Bahamas. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images/AFP
Rickie Fowler of the United States poses with the trophy after winning the Hero World Challenge at Albany, Bahamas on December 3, 2017 in Nassau, Bahamas. Mike Ehrmann Pic /Getty Images/AFP

Fowler was 18-under, Hoffman second in 14-under with Tommy Fleetwood (67) and Jordan Spieth (69) T-3rd at 12-under and defending champion Hideki Matsuyama (68) T-5th with Patrick Reed (68) and Justin Rose (70). Francesco Molinari (70) was ninth and Tiger Woods, (68) completed the Top-10 alongside Matt Kuchar (71). Fowler's stirring show earned him the Hero World Challenge Trophy from Mr. Pawan Munjal, Chairman, President and CEO of Hero MotoCorp and tournament host, Tiger Woods, on the 18th green. Fowler also took home a million dollar cheque. Hoffman failed to convert his 54-hole lead into a win for the fifth time as yet another sensational final round from a rival left him stranded.

Even though the tournament featured 17 players inside World's Top-32 and eight from World's Top-10, the focus all week was Woods, who started the week at ranked 1199 but ended it at 668 with a T-9 finish including final round card of 68 and second front nine 31 in three days. Most significantly he was back with body that is in good shape and a game, when shaken off its rust, will shine again and rekindle hopes of adding to 14 Majors and 79 PGA Tour titles. A fit and painless back coupled with renewed energy and his new-found camaraderie with a bunch of youngsters, who grew up idolizing him, but are now winning Majors and dominating the game, seem to have given Woods just the reason to work towards a meaningful and lasting comeback.

Woods' front nine 31 on the second day gave him sole lead for a brief while as the world of golf into a frenzy. On Sunday he made up for the disappointing third round 75. His final round front nine included three birdies and an eagle-2 on par-4 seventh but he finished bogey-bogey on 17-18. Yet he was smiling at the return. Woods said, "I was still a little scratchy with my irons, drove it pretty good all week, made some good putts. Overall I'm very pleased. I showed some good signs. I'm ready for a bright future." He added, "We're going to sit down here and figure out what's the best way to build my schedule for the major championships, and what my training cycles are going to be. I want to play enough, but not too much. I'll sit down with the whole team and we'll figure it out."

Granted perfect conditions a day after tough and gusty winds, Fowler sprinted out of the gate. He said, "Obviously I knew I needed to get off to a hot start to give myself a chance, and Charley's been playing some solid golf and I wasn't expecting him to come back to me. I knew I was going to have to go out and get him. I wasn't expecting seven out of the gate, but I'll take it. "It (the win) was pretty special. It's not a full‑field event, but all 18 guys here have all earned their way here." As for Hoffman, he said, "I played good, just didn't play as good as I needed to today. Mostly I didn't think someone's going to go out and shoot 11 under par. With that I got sort of steamrolled. It happened when Hideki did it at WGC and when Jhonattan Vegas (at Canadian Open) did it. So guys have come out of the pack and sort of passed me, it's not from (me) not playing good golf."

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