Woods can look to Love for post-surgery motivation

By Rex HoggardNovember 29, 2017, 7:01 pm

NASSAU, Bahamas – Davis Love III texted Tiger Woods a simple message on Monday: “If you play four rounds, it’s a win.”

For the man who for so long lived by the mantra that “second sucks,” participation medals probably aren't items of interest. But this is a different Tiger, a Tiger broken by four back procedures and a Tiger more than two years removed from his last flash of competitive relevance.

This is a player/patient who has gazed into the abyss of life after golf and struggled with the diminishing quality of that life, with a back wouldn’t allow him to drive a car or play with his children.

Put it this way - although Woods' mind is still plenty willing, his body remains the glaring question.

By all accounts, Woods is pain-free, something he says he hasn’t been since 2012. He’s also happy, welcoming all this week to the Hero World Challenge, an unofficial event he hosts at Albany.

But his relative health and happiness offer little insight into this question – what will Tiger Woods' competitive career look like post-fusion surgery?

“The people who have had my procedure of L5-S1, the average age is 58. Me being 41, 17 years younger - most of the people who have had it, like for instance Lanny [Wadkins] and Lee [Trevino], they were well past their playing days when they had the procedure done,” Woods said. “I'm still right in my playing years, and so it's hard for me to ask people what were you experiencing because they weren't going at velocity at that age.”

Although it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, there is a someone who has emerged as a sounding board for Woods. In February 2013, Love underwent a similar fusion surgery to his C 5-6 and C 6-7 vertebrae in his upper back. While there are differences between the two procedures, Woods only needed to glance at the message on his phone on Monday to find hope.

Hero World Challenge: Articles, photos and video

“We’ve been talking about it; the immediate relief is what’s so amazing. I couldn’t feel my fingers, and all of a sudden that’s gone,” said Love, who again finds himself in the recovery process following hip replacement surgery last week. “His [recovery] took more time than mine, but they were very similar and the prognosis is good once you bite the bullet.”

Woods has explained this week that the fusion surgery he had in April has limited his flexibility and exposed a few more aches and pains, but the overall relief has been life-changing.

“I have some stiffness. Like, no duh, it's fused,” Woods said. “So I'm learning what my body can't do yet and what it can do. It’s just going to take a little bit of time.”

Again, there’s a lesson to be learned from Love’s journey through a similar process.

Like Woods, Love recalls being tentative when he returned to golf, reluctant to take full swings, particularly with mid-irons that required a steep downswing and hard contact with the ground.

“You work your way into it,” Love said. “The first time you make a full swing, you’re thinking, ‘Is it going to hold?’ You’re so used to things hurting.”

Love, who was 48 when he had his fusion surgery, admits now he probably took longer to rehab than he needed, figuring there was something to the old cliché that “no one ever came back too late from an injury.”

In May 2013, three months after having surgery, Love returned to competition at The Players, where he played four rounds and tied for 48th place.

“It was just relief that I’d made it through rehab,” Love recalled. “There were some buried lies in bunkers I was nervous about, but after that I was like, ‘Alright, this is going to be OK.’”

Love would play 15 events in 2013 and 22 the next year. Of course, the true measure of his post-surgery success came in 2015 when Love won the Wyndham Championship, his 21st Tour title at 51 years old.

Woods is plenty familiar with that accomplishment, since he was one of the players Love beat that Sunday in Greensboro, N.C. That Sunday was also the last time Tiger was in contention, adding some extra credence Love’s perspective.

“I told him, you play 20 events a year the next four years [and] you’re going to be competitive,” Love said. “I would think he could make the FedExCup [Playoffs] if he plays 20 events. He’s like any other athlete; if he’s healthy, he’s going to figure out a way to play well.”

Getty Images

McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

Getty Images

Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.