Tiger Woods finishes 2nd at Valspar after strong weekend

For the first time in a while, Tiger Woods wore red on Sunday. Woods donned his iconic red shirt for the final round of the Valspar Championship because he was contending for the lead, something he hadn’t done at a PGA Tour event in over a year. Woods finished one stroke shy of eventual winner Paul Casey, but Woods’ performance at Valspar offers hope that he will be competitive at next month’s Masters tournament and other majors once again.

Woods is 11 months removed from undergoing a spinal fusion - his fourth major back surgery. His recovery was a long and difficult one and included a brief stint in rehab, but he eventually made his return to professional golf in December. Valspar was Woods’ fifth tournament since rejoining the tour, and it was the first one the 42-year-old was able to stay competitive in through the final round due to a style of play that seemed like vintage Tiger.

Woods’ club speed and driving distance were among the best in the field over the weekend, while his putting appeared to be what was holding him back. He left a 40-foot birdie putt short on the final hole, which sealed his fate behind Casey, and earlier in the day he bogeyed the fourth hole after missing a short chip shot and three-putted on the 14th hole to salvage par. Casey, by contrast, began the day well back fo the lead but managed to shoot a 6-under final round to vault into the lead.

Woods told reporters he felt comfortable throughout the weekend, with no apparent physical discomfort. Assuming Valspar was not an anomaly, Woods appears to be back in competitive form for the foreseeable future. He has about a month to iron out the rough patches in his game - mostly putting and working with his irons - before the first major tournament of 2018: the Masters. Woods hasn’t won a tournament since 2013, and he hasn’t won a major since 2008, but after all that he’s been through, being in the field on a Sunday is a victory in itself.