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Rickie Fowler rallies to win, Tiger Woods finishes strong at Hero World Challenge

Rickie Fowler drives from the 18th tee during a final-round 61 that gives him a four-shot victory at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.

Associated Press

Rickie Fowler drives from the 18th tee during a final-round 61 that gives him a four-shot victory at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas.

NASSAU, Bahamas — Rickie Fowler was the first player to offer a scouting report on Tiger Woods ahead of his return to golf, hinting that Woods was hitting it "way by" him in some of their matches in Florida.

Fowler's own game apparently was in pretty good shape, too.

Seven shots behind to start the final round of the Hero World Challenge, Fowler opened with seven straight birdies Sunday and closed with 11-under 61 to set the course record at Albany Golf Club and win by four shots over Charley Hoffman.

Fowler played twice with Woods before he was runner-up at the OHL Classic in Mexico, then a couple of more times before Thanksgiving.

"I think he sharpened me up a little bit," said Fowler, who finished at 18-under 270. "I've gotten a little scared of how good he was playing at home, thought I needed to start playing a little bit better or something."

Fowler and Woods each had cause for celebration, large and small, in the Bahamas.

Fowler won his second title of the year, making it the second time he has ended a year with multiple victories worldwide. Woods' return was solid with his health and his game, and he headed into the holidays thinking about a schedule for 2018.

"I'm excited," Woods said after closing with 68. "This is the way I've been playing at home."

Woods had his best result in four years. He looked strong from start to finish, including a vicious recoil on a 2-iron he hit from 265 yards on the third hole that ran over the back of the green.

Playing for the first time in 10 months while recovering from fusion surgery on his lower back — his fourth back surgery in three years — Woods shot 31 on the front nine and closed with back-to-back bogeys to tie for ninth in an 18-man field.

It was his best result since a playoff loss at this holiday event in 2013 in California.

Woods still finished 10 shots back. Then again, Fowler didn't give anyone much of a chance.

Fowler was close to flawless on the front nine. He holed birdie putts of about 12 feet on the first two holes, hit a gap wedge to 3 feet on the par-5 third, made his toughest putt into the green from 15 feet on No. 4 then holed a bunker shot on No. 5. He followed with another wedge that spun back to a foot on the par-5 sixth, and he hit out of a bunker to about 7 feet on the next hole.

"I knew I needed to get off to a quick start to at least show Charley I was there," Fowler said.

By then, he was tied for the lead as Hoffman, who birdied his first hole, began to drop shots. Hoffman, the overnight leader, never caught up and shot 72.

Rickie Fowler rallies to win, Tiger Woods finishes strong at Hero World Challenge

12/03/17 [Last modified: Sunday, December 3, 2017 7:10pm]
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