DeLaet knows first hand the severity of Tiger's injury

By Ryan LavnerApril 2, 2014, 4:40 pm

HUMBLE, Texas – The pain in Graham DeLaet’s lower back and right leg was so unbearable that he couldn’t sit still for more than 10 seconds at a time. He lost sensation in a few toes. His quality of life became more pressing than his golf game.

“It was the worst pain in my life,” he says now.

And three years ago, Graham DeLaet underwent the same back surgery – a microdiscectomy, for a pinched nerve – that Tiger Woods had earlier this week.

No two surgeries are alike, of course, but DeLaet didn’t hit balls for four months (and even that was too soon), he needed a year to fully recover, and even now he concedes, “I’m not sure I’ll ever be 100 percent again.”

To be clear, DeLaet hasn’t examined Woods’ MRI. He doesn’t know the discomfort he was experiencing. But, DeLaet says, “if he had the same surgery I had, then I’m sure he was dealing with the same symptoms I had.”

DeLaet has dealt with back pain for much of his career, but it came to a head during the 2010 season, his rookie year on Tour. Fighting to keep his card, he continued to play despite shooting pain down his right side. The discomfort would flare up and subside, never on schedule, making it difficult to anticipate when the next episode would come. His herniated disk was “the worst my doctor and physiotherapist had ever seen,” DeLaet said.

“When the pain was at its worst,” he said, “golf was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted to live a regular life. I wanted to be able to play catch with my kids.”

After surgery, the first chunk of DeLaet’s rehab was simply walking – around the block, then a few spins, then up to 4-5 miles per day.

DeLaet didn’t begin chipping and putting for three months; Woods said Tuesday that he hoped to begin doing that in three weeks.

DeLaet didn’t hit full shots until four months after surgery; Woods seemed to indicate that his timetable would be drastically shorter.

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DeLaet didn’t play a tournament until the six-month point, when he teed it up in three events in June. It was apparent then that he’d rushed back too soon, and he ended up shutting it down for the rest of the year, returning to competition at the Sony Open the following January. Though DeLaet played a full schedule in 2012, he never felt strong or competitive. On many shots he flinched at impact to protect his back, a move that resulted in a high flare to the right.

“They always say not to come back until you’re ready,” DeLaet said, “but everybody does. We’re all competitors. We want to compete. But you have to listen to your body.”

Woods seems to be doing that this time, going under the knife and sitting out the Masters for the first time since 1994. It was a difficult decision at a critical juncture in his career – coming off a five-win campaign, in a dead heat with the ghost of Jack Nicklaus (age-38 season, 64 major starts as a pro, 14 majors won).

The world No. 1 did not specify when he hoped to return to competition, saying only that his goal was to be back on Tour “sometime this summer.” That could mean any time, really – after The Players, after the U.S. Open, after major season, after the Ryder Cup. Already he has alluded to the fact that he will need to skip “several upcoming tournaments.”

But the 32-year-old Canadian – who was 10 years younger than Woods when he underwent the procedure – provides a window into what Woods can expect upon his return. Tiger’s days of intense weightlifting likely are done – DeLaet says he works “really hard” in the gym just to lessen the lingering effects. Woods’ swing might even need to be altered.

Not to go all WebMD on you, but DeLaet thinks his back issues were prompted by a lack of mobility in his hips and thoracic spine. Those weaknesses put undue torque on his lower back.

Now, even before doing such everyday tasks as looking under his car, DeLaet is conscious about setting his abdominal muscles before he moves, lest he tweak something.

“I’m still improving, each day,” he said. “I’m not sure I’ll ever be 100 percent again.”

Which means it is possible that Tiger won’t, either. 

Luke List, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic Getty Images

Honda leaders face daunting final day

By Randall MellFebruary 25, 2018, 12:46 am

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The winner may need a cut man in his corner more than he needs a caddie on his bag in Sunday’s finish to the Honda Classic.

Smelling salts might come in handy, too.

“It just feels like you are getting punched in the face every single hole here,” Daniel Berger said of the test PGA National’s Champion Course offers. “Every single shot is so hard.”

Final rounds have been especially rough and tumble since the Honda Classic moved to PGA National in 2007.

That usually makes Sundays here as much about who can figuratively take a punch as who can throw one.

Luke List will have his jaw tested after taking sole possession of the lead Saturday with a second consecutive round of 4-under-par 66, but he can take comfort in the fact that punishment is doled plentifully around here.

“Just realizing that everyone is facing the same obstacles out there is huge,” List said. “You're not alone out there, if you make a bogey or a bad swing here or there.”

At 7-under 203, List is one shot ahead of a pair of major championship winners, Justin Thomas (65) and Webb Simpson (66). He is two ahead of Tommy Fleetwood (67), the reigning European Tour Player of the Year, and Jamie Lovemark (68).

List, 33, is seeking his first PGA Tour title in his 104th start. He will have to hold off some heavyweights, including Tiger Woods (69), who is seven shots back but feeling like he has a chance again. Woods closed with a 62 here six years ago when he finished second to Rory McIlroy.

“You never know what can happen the last few holes here,” Woods said. “A lot of things can happen and have happened in the past.”


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Crazy things have happened here.

Three years ago, Padraig Harrington was five shots down with eight holes to play and won. He made two double bogeys in the final round but ended up beating Berger in a playoff.

Berger, by the way, was nine shots back entering the final round.

That was the year Ian Poulter took a share of lead into Sunday, hit five balls in the water and still finished just a shot out of the playoff.

Last year, Rickie Fowler made four bogeys and a double bogey in the final round and still won by four shots.

List will have a heavyweight playing alongside him in the final pairing, with 24-year-old Justin Thomas looking to claim his eighth PGA Tour title. Thomas was last season’s PGA Tour Player of the Year.

List has never held a 54-hole lead in a PGA Tour event.

“You guys build up certain players,” List said. “I know I'll be an underdog going against Justin Thomas and guys like that, which is fine.”

There is some inspiration for List in what Ted Potter Jr. did two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter, largely unknown even though he already had a PGA Tour title to his credit, held off stars Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day in the final round to win. 

Thomas earned the right to play alongside List in the final pairing Sunday with his 65, which equaled the low round of the tournament.

Thomas makes his home in nearby Jupiter and knows the punishment the Champion Course can dish out.

“It's a difficult course,” Thomas said. “If you let it get to you, it can be frustrating, but if you go into it understanding and realizing it's difficult, you just kind of embrace it and deal with it.”

Thomas played the Bear Trap’s trio of daunting holes (Nos. 15-17) in 2 under on Saturday. He birdied the 15th and 17th holes.

Fleetwood got in contention Saturday with a pair of eagles. He’s a four-time European Tour winner.

“I would love to get my first win on the PGA Tour this week,” he said. “It’s just great to be out here. It's great to be playing on courses like this that are such a test of every part of your game.”

Alex Noren, a nine-time European Tour winner, is also seeking his first PGA Tour title. He is three shots back. He lost in a playoff to Day at the Farmers Insurance Open last month.

Though this is just Noren’s second start at the Honda Classic, he knows how wildly momentum can swing on the Champion Course. He shot 65 Saturday after shooting 75 on Friday.

“I’m a few back, but anything can happen,” Noren said.

That’s the theme around here.

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Thomas: Winning hometown Honda would 'mean a lot'

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:53 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas is trying to join Rickie Fowler as a winner of his hometown event.

Thomas will play in the final group alongside Luke List on Sunday at the Honda Classic after matching the low round of the week with a 5-under 65. He is at 6-under 204, one shot back of List.

The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is one of several residents of nearby Jupiter. After Fowler won last year, Thomas (who missed the cut) returned to the course to congratulate his neighbor on his fourth Tour title.

“I hope I give him the opportunity or the choice to come back,” Thomas said. “But I’ve got a lot of golf in front of me before I worry about him coming here.”

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More important to Thomas, however, is winning this event, which is played at PGA National, one of the most difficult non-major courses on Tour.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “It means a lot to win any golf tournament, but it would mean more because of how prestigious this golf tournament is and the list of winners that have won this event, how strong of a field it is, how difficult of a golf course.

“A decent number of my wins have been on easier golf courses, so it would be cool to get it done at a place like this.”

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Woods paired with hotshot rookie Burns at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 24, 2018, 11:38 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Rookie Sam Burns will be in the biggest spot of his career Sunday – playing alongside Tiger Woods.

Burns, the reigning Nicklaus Award winner who turned pro after two standout years at LSU, will go off with Woods at 12:45 p.m. at the Honda Classic.

Burns, 20, who earned his Tour card via Q-School, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption, his fourth of the season. He is 13th on the money list this year, after a tie for second two weeks ago in Colombia.

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Burns and Woods are tied for 11th, at even-par 210.

Sunday is an important round for Burns, who can earn a spot into the Valspar Championship with a top-10 finish here.

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List leads Honda; Thomas one back

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 24, 2018, 11:25 pm

Luke List, one of a legion of PGA Tour players who live in Jupiter, just two exits up I-95 from PGA National, shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead after three rounds of the Honda Classic. Here's how things stand going into the final round at PGA National:

Leaderboard: Luke List (-7), Justin Thomas (-6), Webb Simpson (-6), Tommy Fleetwood (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Alex Noren (-4) 

What it means: Leader List has played well this season, with no finish lower than T-26 in six starts. Thomas, of course, is the reigning Player of the Year. The next best pedigree among the leaders belongs to Simpson, winner of the 2012 U.S. Open and three other PGA Tour titles.

Round of the day: Thomas and Noren both shot 5-under 65s. Thomas made two of his six birdies in the Bear Trap (at the par 3s, Nos. holes 15 and17), while Noren played that stretch (15-17) in 1 over. Noren made his hay elsewhere, including an eagle at the last that canceled out his two bogeys.

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Best of the rest: List, Simpson and Kelly Kraft all shot 66.

Biggest disappointment: After an opening 76, Jimmy Walker probably thought he was back on track with a 68 that allowed him to make the cut. Alas, the improvement was temporary, as he ballooned back to a 74 on Saturday.

Shot of the day: Tommy Fleetwood hit a fairway wood from 282 yards to within 8 feet of the cup on the 18th hole. He then made the putt for his second eagle of the day.

Quote of the day: "The course played a fair bit easier with not as much wind." - Thomas

Biggest storyline going into Sunday: List may be in the lead, but most eyes will be on Thomas, a five-time winner last year who has yet to lift a trophy in 2018. And of course, more than a few people will be keeping tabs on Tiger Woods. He'll begin the day seven shots back, trying to channel Tiger of 2012 - when he posted a 62 on Sunday at PGA National (which was good only for a runner-up finish to Rory McIlroy).