Tiger Woods says Masters plan on track as Justin Thomas wins Honda Class



The challenge was simple, if hefty. Those at the business end of the Honda Classic field had somehow to upstage Tiger Woods, whose standing as the only show in town was endorsed further by the claiming of colossal Sunday galleries. Tiger Mania is back.

The alternative storyline proved decent enough. After a tie at eight under par a play-off ensued between Justin Thomas, seeking a sixth PGA Tour title since the start of last year, and Luke List, who was chasing a first. Thomas took one sudden-death hole to continue his stunning run.

There was to be no dream scenario for Woods on this, his third PGA Tour start of the year. The 14-times major champion will be content with 12th place on reflection but this ferociously competitive animal offered frustration at not adding an 80th tour title to his CV.

Given the circumstances, such success would have been extraordinary. “I feel very happy the way I played the entire week,” Woods insisted. “I gave myself a chance at it. I know it’s been a long time but I remember how to do this.”

Woods’s level-par 70 on Sunday was an anticlimax given he had been three under through eight holes. His troubles at the Bear Trap – a stretch of three holes from the 15th – continued to the extent he was an aggregate of eight over there for the tournament. What he would have given for level par.

That aside, there was plenty of evidence over four days in south Florida to suggest Woods can defy widespread expectation and win again. His eyes, already, are firmly fixed on the Masters.

“I need to keep playing tournament golf and I need to keep building my body, keep building towards April,” he added. “That was the goal when I first came back, to try and get everything situated for April, and I feel like I’m right on track for that.

“I didn’t really know what to expect for the year. I had to make some pretty big changes in my swing and my feels. That’s something that is a reality, my new reality; my back’s fused and I can’t create the same shots I used to be able to create. I can hit the same shots but I just have to do it in a different way.”

Sam Burns, a sponsor’s tournament invitee who played in the company of Woods, is due immense credit for his bogey-free 68. The 20-year-old admitted pre-round he had partnered Woods before … on his PlayStation.

Woods’s showing drew high praise from arguably the greatest player of them all, Jack Nicklaus. “I’m amazed at how well Tiger is playing,” said the winner of 18 majors, the most of all time, as Woods was playing round four. “He’s swung very well. He’s playing well. If he is healthy, I think he can play as well as he ever did.”

Tommy Fleetwood, who at one stage held a one-stroke lead, fell two short of the play-off. Alex Noren claimed third on his own at minus seven.