- Tiger Woods finishes with level-par 72 in Hero World Challenge event
- Woods again struggles for consistency on his comeback
- First tournament after back surgery earlier this summer
- 21-year-old Jordan Spieth secures runaway victory
(CNN)He finished joint last in an 18-strong elite field at a tournament he hosts and has won five times.
By his own admission his short game around the greens was "awful" -- but former world number one Tiger Woods still claimed he had gained encouragement from his rocky return to competitive golf.
Woods, sidelined since the summer after back surgery, had also to battle a raging fever which saw him physically ill on the course Saturday, but bravely returned to finish with a level par 72 in the Hero World Challenge event.
It left him on level par 288 on the Isleworth Golf and Country Club course, near his Florida home, tied with Hunter Mahan for the wooden spoon.
It was left to 21-year-old Jordan Spieth, born not long before teenage prodigy Woods played his first PGA Tour event, to smash his record for a winning margin at the World Challenge, seven shots in 2007.
Spieth started with a seven-shot lead overnight, but extended it to 10 over second-placed Henrik Stenson of Sweden, as he closed with a six-under 66. He was fully 26 shots clear of Woods.
Comparison between the pair were unavoidable but the 14-time major winner was full of praise for the 2014 U.S. Masters runner-up.
"He's playing some very special golf just now. Remember he finished with a 63 in the Australian Open (to win it) then flew nine thousand miles to play here," Woods said.
But with a remodeled swing, it has been Woods who has been the focus of attention on his return, which began in sorry style with an opening five-over-par 77.
The first sign of his lack of tournament golf also manifested itself with a series of fluffed chips, which left seasoned observers shaking their heads.
To his credit, Woods battled back with second and third rounds of 70 and 69, despite his illness and showed glimpses of his old best, mixed with inconsistent play.
In relaxed mood after finishing, Woods said he was just happy to be back on the course again, despite his final round being spoiled by a horrible triple bogey on the 13th, where he made two more mishits around the green.
"It feels good actually to feel that rush again," he said.
"I didn't hit the ball as well I would like, the short game was awful, but it's a good sign I played four straight days and there was no pain."
Woods, who has been watched video recordings of his great triumphs to try to repeat his old swing pattern, would not be drawn on when he will make his next appearance.
The World Challenge is sanctioned by the PGA Tour but is not an official event, so he is likely to return again in February to begin his 2015 campaign.
There was better news Sunday for Woods' niece Cheyenne, who clinched her official card to play on the LPGA Tour next year, while his girlfriend Lindsey Vonn followed up her World Cup downhill win at Lake Louise with second place in a super-G.
Woods will be hoping he can also add to his 79 PGA Tour wins as soon as possible, but on the evidence of his initial comeback has many hours on the practice ground ahead to match the likes of Spieth and current world number one Rory McIlroy.