“Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years.” -LL Cool J, “Mama said knock you out”
Tiger Woods returned from a three-month, injury-induced hiatus on Thursday at Firestone. A day earlier Rory McIlroy, dubbed by many Woods’ heir apparent, suggested he’s ready to come back to America.
In many ways, it was like neither one had ever left.
Tiger Woods. Win, lose or draw his return at Akron is a step in the right direction and his flirtation with playing the Greenbrier Classic is the most positive sign to date that he is hungry to play, and win, again.
Although the second-year event pulled a solid field this year and is quickly becoming a must-stop for many Tour types, it is not the kind of tournament that Woods would have even considered playing just 12 months ago. But according to Greenbrier owner Jim Justice, Team Tiger reached out to him before the British Open about the possibility and it was a last-minute decision by Woods’ doctors that ultimately nixed the idea.
Some have speculated that Woods has lost some of his competitive edge and passion for the game in recent years, but if a late-summer trip to West Virginia doesn’t scream “all in,” we don’t know what does.
Coming (back) to America. We hardly had time to miss Rory McIlroy, although the thought of a “playoff” run without the game’s most dominant newcomer stretches the boundaries of competitive integrity. But news this week that he was “leaning towards” bringing his skills to South Beach was likely a reason to celebrate in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
That it was a brutal weather week at Royal St. George’s that put the Ulsterman over the top for a return to the PGA Tour will only be more fodder for the United Kingdom press.
According to McIlroy’s manager Chubby Chandler the U.S. Open champion will likely buy a home in the West Palm Beach, Fla., area and probably only change the second half of his schedule, specifically the addition of the four-event FedEx Cup playoffs.
The news was music to Tour officials’ ears as the circuit enters the early stages of network contract talks and could use a McIlroy “trump card” at the negotiating table.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
When more may be less. On Monday David Toms climbed the steep hill to Atlanta Athletic Club’s 15th tee and was immediately asked what club he intended to hit. “It won’t be a 5-wood,” he quickly shot back.
At 265 yards, the par-3 15th won’t be a “5-wood” hole for many players during next week’s PGA Championship. In 2001 Toms aced the 15th on Saturday with a 5-wood. But that was back when the hole played to a modest 227 yards. Back before things got out of hand. Back when AAC played to about 7,200 yards. This time around the Georgia gem can be stretched to some 7,500 yards.
“First time I played the course I thought 10 over (par) may win (the PGA),” said Gary Woodland, who, for the record, is statistically the Tour’s third-longest driver of the golf ball.
It’s always interesting to Cut Line that nine out of 10 Tour players will tell you the 10th hole at Riviera Country Club is among the Tour’s best. The Riv’s 10th is exactly 50 yards longer than AAC’s 15th. The Riv’s 10th is a par 4.
Tweet of the week: @HankDHaney “The wipe won 45 (percent) of the time.”
Haney was responding to a question about Tiger Woods’ comments on Thursday at Firestone following a first-round 68.
“My swing was more of a wipey swing, just kind of wiping it out there, so I wasn't getting a full transfer of energy, so now I'm swinging easier,” Woods said. “I am not even hitting it hard yet, and that's what's fun. I'm hitting it farther without any more effort.”
It may have been a “wipey swing,” but on this Haney is correct. Those stats don’t lie.
PGA of America. File this one in the too little, too late category. The PGA announced this week it plans to honor Larry Nelson with the Distinguished Service Award on Wednesday in Atlanta.
Nelson is certainly a worthy recipient, but if the PGA really wanted to honor Nelson they would have made him a Ryder Cup captain when they had a chance.
Whatever the politics that kept Nelson out of the captain’s chair, it is impossible to imagine a more qualified and deserving candidate. His 9-3-1 Ryder Cup mark is stellar and with three majors on the resume he was infinitely qualified.
We like to refer to the matches as a battle and the captains as commanders, and yet when the PGA had a chance to appoint someone who has led men into an actual battle (Vietnam) they whiffed. But the Distinguished Service Award should be a fine consolation prize.
Freddie, Freddie, Freddie. Maybe U.S. Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples likes what he saw out of Tiger Woods on Thursday at Firestone (68), or maybe the news that the former world No. 1 would play the Australian Open the week before this year’s matches in Melbourne, Australia, or maybe he just wasn’t paying attention when 2009 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin made the same mistake before last year’s matches.
Whatever the reason, Couples jumped down a slippery slope on Friday when he told Golf Channel’s David Marr that he would use a captain’s pick on Woods if he needed to, as long as Woods was healthy.
OK, this is hardly groundbreaking stuff, but why – given that Couples has until Sept. 26 to make his decision – would a captain back himself into a selection corner? Woods is currently 26th on the U.S. points list, which is to say there are currently 15 players who have, in theory, done more to deserve a pick.
Woods’ body of work certainly justifies a pick, but what’s the rush?