Tiger to face new cast of rivals
Luckily, I dont play football, Woods said Monday.
Woods said his knee will probably be no more than 85 percent strong when he returns, but he sees no reason why he cant get back to the level of play that brought him nine victories in 12 official events this year, no finish worse than a tie for fifth.
One week after winning the U.S. Open in a 19-hole playoff at Torrey Pines, Woods had surgery to rebuild the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. If the healing process runs its normal course, he said he will not be able to swing a club until January at the earliest.
The healing process for an ACL is six months, Woods said during a video conference to announce the 16-man field for his Chevron World Challenge in December. No matter what I try to do, I cant speed up that process. That puts me into January. Unfortunately, I cant rotate, I cant practice on that leg until then.
I believe the stat is after six months, the ACL is 85 percent in strength, and then over the next year-and-a-half, it will gain its 100 percent strength, he said. So its basically a two-year process.
Woods said his goal was getting his body healthy for 2009 to compete at a high level.
He said his nine months of competition, from an eight-shot victory in the Bridgestone Invitational through his playoff victory at the U.S. Open for his 14th career major, was the best stretch of his career.
I think I played better in this stretch than I have at any time in my career, said Woods, whose 65 career PGA Tour victories trail only Jack Nicklaus (73) and Sam Snead (82). I may have won more major championships, but I certainly have never been in contention in as many events, or won as many events in a row. I had a pretty good run.
In the only three tournaments he didnt win between August 2007 and June 2008, Woods finished two shots behind Phil Mickelson at the Deutsche Bank Championship; two shots behind Geoff Ogilvy at Doral; and three shots behind Trevor Immelman at the Masters.
But he could face a fresh challenge when he returns.
Over the last five months, Anthony Kim has emerged as golfs brightest young prospect with victories in the Wachovia Championship and AT&T National at Congressional, along with a starring role in the U.S. victory at the Ryder Cup.
Nobody is going to knock Tiger off anywhere, Kim said last week at the Tour Championship. Hes staying there until somebody starts giving him more a challenge on a week-to-week basis, and thats my goal. This gives me an opportunity to know what I need to work on for next year to be ready when he comes back.
And Id love to give him more of a challenge than I did before.
Kim missed the playoff by one shot at the Tour Championship, which Camilo Villegas won for his second straight victory.
The 23-year-old Kim began the year at No. 75 in the world, and now is at No. 6. Villegas, a 26-year-old from Colombia, rose to No. 7 with his victory at East Lake.
Both will be part of the Chevron World Challenge, to be played Dec. 18-21 at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., where the defending champion ' Woods ' will be reduced to his other role as tournament host.
Also in the field are eight other Ryder Cup players ' Steve Stricker, Kenny Perry, Jim Furyk, Justin Leonard, Hunter Mahan and Boo Weekley of the United States; and double major winner Padraig Harrington and Paul Casey of Europe.
Mahan, the only player to go all five matches at the Ryder Cup without a loss, was a sponsors exemption along with Weekley, Casey and Fred Couples, next years U.S. captain for the Presidents Cup.
Rounding out the field are FedEx Cup champion Vijay Singh, K.J. Choi, Stephen Ames, Mike Weir and Luke Donald, who has missed the last three months with a wrist injury.
With so much success by younger players, is Woods eager to return?
Yes and no, he said. Because as of right now, I couldnt beat anyone. I cant swing a club yet. So theres really no sense in me getting too excited and too fired up, and going out there and embarrassing myself right now. Maybe I could take them on in a putt-putt contest.
He is curious what he could have done without knee surgery.
Woods won four of his six starts on the PGA Tour, and he kept his lead on the money list until Singh won the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston on Labor Day.
I missed the two major championships. I missed the entire playoffs, Woods said. It was frustrating in a sense because I was having a pretty good year to that point when I decided to shut it down for the rest of the year. It would have been nice to see what I could have done for the rest of the year.
Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.