Rosaforte: Good chance Tiger returns at Quail Hollow

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 22, 2016, 3:41 pm

Tiger Woods’ return to the PGA Tour may not be too far away afterall.

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte said Friday on “Morning Drive” that he wouldn’t be surprised to see Woods tee it up as soon as the Wells Fargo Championship May 5-8 at Quail Hollow.

It would be Woods’ first start in about nine months. He hasn’t played in Charlotte since 2012.

“Not saying it will, but at the same time, don’t be surprised if it does,” Rosaforte said. “This is the logical choice.”

Mark Steinberg, Woods’ manager said: “Nothing has changed as of now. There is no timetable.”

Woods has been at Sage Valley in South Carolina the past two days speaking to players at the Junior Invitational. Woods and Notah Begay held a clinic for participants on Thursday and Woods was on the first tee Friday as a spectator.

Begay told GolfChannel.com that Woods is in the “back half of his progression” in his return from back surgery, and that Woods is getting closer to a return to the PGA Tour.

“It's mostly the ball speed and the clubhead speed,” Begay said. “That's a gauge. Every player knows where they should be heading into the season. Everybody else's season started in the fall. We don't know when Tiger Woods' season is going to start, but the physical attributes you would look for are starting to materialize.”

That ball speed, per Begay, is above 170 mph. Woods worked through his bag during his clinic Thursday, shaping the ball with each club, hitting some 2-iron stingers, and even trying out a new driver, which he quickly dismissed.

No matter how good Woods’ TrackMan numbers look, Begay said that practice alone will not be enough. At some point, Woods has to test his back in competition, round after round. It's the only way he'll really know where he stands.

“You have to play tournaments,” Begay said. “You have to put in the reps on the range, probably 300-500 balls a day, and just have to play tournaments. The combination of walking, swinging slightly faster in tournaments, and the stress and all of the focus you need in a tournament week.”

The 40-year-old hasn’t played since Aug. 23 at the Wyndham Championship, where he recorded his best finish of the year, a tie for 10th place. Prior to that, he had missed the cut in three consecutive majors for the first time in his career.

Last September, he underwent a second microdiscectomy and a third procedure to alleviate discomfort in his lower back.

Updates on his recovery have been scarce. When he appeared at his World Challenge event in early December, Woods said that he had “nothing to look forward to” and any other accomplishments in his career would be “gravy.”

Woods skipped the Masters for the second time in three years, but he didn’t announce his intentions until the Friday before the tournament, leading to speculation that he was close to a return but not quite ready.

Ryan Lavner and Nick Menta contributed to this report.

Getty Images

What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

Getty Images

Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

Getty Images

Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.