Rickie Fowler and Tiger Woods each had cause for celebrations large and small Sunday in the Hero World Challenge.
Fowler rallied from a seven-shot deficit by starting his final round with seven straight birdies at Albany Golf Club and closing with an 11-under 61 for a four-shot victory over Charley Hoffman. It was the second victory of the year for Fowler, and the second time he has ended a year with multiple victories worldwide.
“Finally just kind of got everything to piece together,” said Fowler, who moves to No. 7 in the world.
In a week that began with so much curiosity over how Woods would perform, he had his best result in four years. More than his score, he looked just as strong at end, including a vicious recoil on a 2-iron he hit from 265 yards on the third hole that ran through 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 another 31 on the front nine, closed with back-to-back bogeys and shot a 68.
He tied for ninth in the 18-man field, his best result since a playoff loss at this holiday event in 2013 at Sherwood Country Club in California.
“I’m excited,” Woods said. “This is the way I’ve been playing at home.”
He still finished 10 shots behind Fowler. Then again, Fowler didn’t give anyone much of a chance.
Fowler, whose lone PGA Tour victory this year was in the Honda Classic, 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, and then holed a bunker shot on No. 5. He followed that 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 and work to make par. He never caught up and shot 72. Fowler went out in 28 and then added birdies on the 11th and 13th holes to stretch his lead.
Fowler finished at 14-under 274.
Tommy Fleetwood, the Race to Dubai winner from England who is getting married Tuesday in the Bahamas, closed with a 67 and tied for third with Jordan Spieth (69), who has not finished out of the top 10 since the PGA Championship.
A year ago, Woods returned from a 15-month hiatus from back surgeries and showed flashes of his old self, particularly when he shot 65 in the second round and ended the week with 24 birdies. Woods said nothing about his health that week, though his back couldn’t withstand the rough at Torrey Pines and the 16-hour flight to Dubai. He withdrew after one round at Dubai with back spasm and had the fusion surgery in April.
Smith wins the Australian PGA title
Cameron Smith won the Australian PGA Championship with a par on the second hole of a playoff with fellow Australian Jordan Zunic. Both players were off the 18th green for their third shots, but Smith put his within 4 feet and made the putt after Zunic missed from about 12 feet.
Smith, who finished fourth last week in the Australian Open, closed with a three-under 68 and Zunic had a 71 to finish at 18-under 270 at Royal Pines. Smith bogeyed the 18th in regulation after birdieing the 17th to take the lead. Zunic had eight consecutive pars on the back nine after he bogeyed the 10th.
Adam Bland was third after a 68, missing the playoff by one stroke. Marc Leishman also shot 68 and tied for fourth. Defending champion Harold Varner III was sixth after a 66, six shots behind. Sergio Garcia shot a 74 and finished 12 strokes behind.
Frittelli wins Mauritius Open in a playoff
Dylan Frittelli beat Arjun Atwal with a birdie on the first playoff hole to clinch the Mauritius Open title. The 27-year-old South African secured a second European Tour title in his first year on the tour. He was named the tour’s best newcomer at the start of the week following a 19th place finish in the 2017 Race to Dubai.
He began the new season with victory in Mauritius after India’s Atwal, who set the pace for much of the tournament at Heritage Golf Course, agonizingly missed out on an eagle on the last hole in regulation play that would have given him his first European title in nearly a decade.
Atwal saw his eagle putt lip out on No. 18, and settled for birdie to set up a playoff. He and Frittelli both finished on 16 under par after 18 holes. Frittelli made five birdies and a bogey in his final round 4-under 67. Atwal, who set a course record with an opening-round 62, finished with six birdies but also two bogeys for his 68.
France’s Romain Langasque was alone in third place, two shots behind Frittelli and Atwal after finishing with a 67. Louis de Jager was fourth. Louis Oosthuizen, the highest-ranked player at the tournament, made a charge up the leaderboard on the final day with two eagles and a run of three straight birdies on Nos. 10-12. However, the former Open champion’s challenge ended with a triple bogey seven on No. 16 and he finished seventh, five shots behind.