Tiger’s Back: Ecstatic Woods Says 'My Expectations Have Gone Up'

Justin Thomas won the Honda Classic on Sunday but his success was almost overshadowed by Tiger Woods’s performance, as the former world number one’s recovery continued apace.

Thomas won his eight PGA Tour title after beating Luke List in a playoff after the pair carded a two-under par 68, before finding the green with his second shot as the two replayed the par-five 18th in the playoff.

If the win cemented the 24-year-old as one of the players to keep a close eye on during the season, Woods’s performance suggested his progress is arguably ahead of schedule. The 14-time major winner finished tied 12th in Florida in what was only his third start of the year but was in contention until Sunday and spent the weekend flirting with the more prestigious places on the leaderboard.

Woods led the pack in driving distance and, in the final round, he climbed within three shots of the lead after a birdie on the 14th, his fourth of the day.

A double-bogey at 15 and a bogey at the following hole ended Woods’s dreams of success but there were many positives to take from his showing. While he was eight over for the week through 15 and 17, Woods was eight under everywhere else and his 12th place finish was his best performance since he finished tied for 10th at the Wyndham Championship in the summer of 2015 .

GettyImages-924168282 Tiger Woods plays his approach shot on the fourth hole during the final round of the Honda Classic. Getty Images

Incidentally, Woods hit 14 greens in regulation Sunday, the most since that round in Greensboro three years ago.

After spending six months on the sideline following his back surgery last year, Woods returned to action in the Hero World Challenge last December, where he briefly held the lead before finishing ninth in an 18-man field.

Further progress followed at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines at the end of January, although he needed four birdies on the back nine to make the cut. Meanwhile, hopes that Woods was getting back to his best were dashed when he missed the cut at the Riviera and the Genesis Open last week, when his driving and putting let him down.

His performance at the Honda Classic, however, was one that got his rivals to sit up and take notice.

“I was very, very impressed with how he played this week,” Thomas was quoted as saying by Golf Digest. “Here, you can't drive it like that [like Woods had done at Torrey] and get it around. So he obviously drove it a lot better. He played a lot better. ”

Of course, there are a number of areas of his game Tiger still needs to polish, but his display in Florida was definitely a step in the right direction.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” he told Golf Digest. “My expectations have gone up. I'm hitting the ball better. I knew I could putt it, I knew I could chip it, but I didn’t know how well I was going to hit it.

“I’ve had to get used to certain things. I can’t do what I used to do. I can’t hit the same shots, the same body positions. They are different. I’m getting used to it.”

With the Masters just over a month away, the 43-year-old appears to be hitting form at the right time, but how far could the California native go in his first major in three years?

“I'm just building towards April,” Woods told NBC. “I'm trying to get myself ready for that, and I feel like I'm right on track for that.”

“I know it's been a long time, but I remember how to do this.”