Woods faces another long road to recovery

By Will GraySeptember 19, 2015, 12:32 am

Tiger Woods appeared poised to make a fresh start, putting behind the struggles of last season and building upon his T-10 finish last month at the Wyndham Championship.

Instead, his body has again betrayed him, and we are all left to wonder what lies ahead.

Woods announced Friday that he underwent microdiscectomy surgery on Sept. 16. It is the same surgery he had in March 2014, one that kept him sidelined for nearly three months, and will keep him out of action for the forseeable future.

The news release was more like an explosion, setting fire to any and all expectations we had for Woods entering next season. Only the questions persist.

When will we see him next? Woods has targeted early 2016, but what is certain is that he will miss a handful of fall starts, notably the Frys.com Open where he was expected to headline the field alongside Rory McIlroy. Whatever glimmer of progress was forged at the Wyndham will now atrophy as Woods sits on the sidelines.

Momentum can be a golfer's best friend – just ask Jason Day. But time and again, Woods has been unable to conjure any in the last two years, both within singular rounds and on a more macro level.

It has been awhile since Woods has played great golf, sure, but it has also been awhile since he has had a clean bill of health for any considerable length of time. The two continue to go hand-in-hand.

More Tiger Woods: Injury timeline | Career in photos

Did he come back too early? The last time Woods faced a recovery from microdiscectomy surgery, he said it would sideline him for "several weeks." He missed the Masters for the first time as a pro and returned after 11 weeks at the Quicken Loans National, a tournament that benefits his foundation. He displayed significant amounts of rust in his first two starts, then withdrew from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational when his back again flared up.

This time around, Woods has ceded that the injury will sideline him into next year. Part of that decision is dictated by the golf calendar, but part may be a desire to play it safe(r) the second time around.

While he declared himself injury-free at several tournaments this summer, Woods did allude to some hip trouble last month in Greensboro. But this diagnosis appears to have caught him off-guard, given the fact that he offered his commitment to the season opener only last week. 

While there is no way to know if a few extra weeks off last summer could have prevented this setback, it seems a fair question to ponder as he prepares to embark on the same road to recovery that he trod only 18 months ago. 

Then there is the issue of the ever-ticking clock. What does his body have left? Woods will turn 40 on Dec. 30, crossing a landmark birthday before he next tees it up. The uphill battle facing the over-40 club has been well-documented, both on the PGA Tour and at the majors, although Woods' record means he should not necessarily be held to the limitations of his predecessors.

But Father Time chases even the greats, and he appears to have once again closed the gap on Woods. Woods has long insisted that a back injury poses a more difficult recovery than a knee injury, one with which he has had plenty of experience. Now he faces the dreaded re-injury in an already difficult area, opting for surgery to try to seal the dam after the first attempt allowed a leak to spring.

Copies of copies lose their legibility. Battery capacities begin to erode after a certain number of charges. With this latest setback, the hopes that Woods will ever return to 100 percent – or even the lofty heights of his five-win campaign in 2013 – only grow more faint.

How exactly he will respond, how tall Woods will stand after again getting knocked down, remains a mystery. Just as we began to feel comfortable with our expectations for one of the game's greats, we are again left with only more questions.

Getty Images

Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

Getty Images

Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

Getty Images

DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

Getty Images

LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.