Woods' health affects the present and the future

By Rex HoggardAugust 28, 2013, 7:20 pm

Golf, much like Rex Ryan, doesn’t do injury reports, but if they did Tiger Woods’ fortunes would have been upgraded from “day to day” to “probable” for this week’s Deutsche Bank Championship on Tuesday.

Although it’s hardly definitive, Woods’ website added the second playoff event to his schedule on Tuesday, suspending, at least temporarily, speculation that the world No. 1 would miss his start at TPC Boston following his most recent bout with a soft bed and a stiff back last week at The Barclays.

When asked on Sunday his plans for the Deutsche Bank, Woods was less than forthcoming and understandably so. “That’s all hypothetical right now. I just got off and I'm not feeling my best right now,” he said.

For Woods, this likely has little to do with his status on the FedEx Cup points list – the mathematical truth is he could win this week in Boston, in two weeks at the BMW Championship and tee off on Thursday at the Tour Championship with only a slightly larger lead (250 points) than he has right now (162 points) thanks to the algorithms of manufactured parity that is the pre-East Lake points reset.

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Similarly, suggestions that Woods will play the Deutsche Bank because the event benefits his Tiger Woods Foundation seem widely inaccurate, if not downright misleading. He missed the DBC and AT&T National, which also benefits his foundation, in 2008 and ’11 with injury and has missed his own World Challenge twice since 2007. He skipped the AT&T this year as well, because of an elbow injury.

Nor does it seem within the realm of reason that Woods would go all Willis Reed – you remember the New York big man who helped the Knicks to the NBA crown on two bad knees – in order to secure his 11th PGA Tour Player of the Year Award.

In esoteric terms, this dovetails with the ongoing debate about whether Woods’ 2013 was a good or great campaign.

In broad strokes, W’s and L’s – particularly at the majors – are the ultimate scorecard, but on a more subtle, more intimate level, Woods’ decision to play the Deutsche Bank may be about the WD’s.

There have been no withdrawals in 2013, no surreal early exits like on Sunday at the 2012 WGC-Cadillac Championship (Achilles) or the 2011 Players Championship (knee and Achilles) or 2010 Players (“bad neck”). There was the aching elbow in June, but that didn't cause him to WD after the start of play.

If he can suit up and finish the playoffs it will mark the first time since 2009 that Woods played an entire season without an injury-induced withdrawal.

Maybe that means little to the man who remains a Grand Slam short of Jack Nicklaus’ record haul of 18 majors. But it’s important to point out that Woods didn’t go to Sean Foley looking for a swing that would win him four more majors, he went in search of an action that would allow him to play 40 more.

Where some see the relative frustration of another season without a major victory, Woods has quietly pieced together one of his healthiest campaigns in years – not to mention those five Tour titles. That’s no small accomplishment for a player who is widely considered an “old” 37.

One longtime trainer estimated that half the Tour will suffer from some sort of lower back ailment at some point in their careers, adding that for top players it’s almost always an over-use issue more so than a swing mechanics problem.

Without more information – like the Jets’ enigmatic head coach Ryan, Woods has historically been reluctant to give details on his litany of injuries – it’s impossible to know the extent of his debilitation, but according to another Tour trainer lower-back ailments are as common as they are treatable in professional golf.

“It’s a typical low-back strain that is complicated by nerve compression, spasm. He needs rest to heal up correctly (and) could be much better in a few weeks,” the trainer said.

With three playoff events in the next four weeks, however, time is not on Woods’ side.

Perhaps the most interesting element of Woods’ current bout with the training table is that he seemed to sense this one was inbound.

Last Wednesday, Woods only played nine holes during his pro-am round at The Barclays. “My neck and back are a little bit stiff, it was stiff this morning after a soft bed and just one of those things, sleeping in hotels and I didn’t want to push it,” he said.

That’s in contrast to past injuries which seemed to show up, at least publically, unannounced. Last year at Doral, for example, he was asked how his body was “holding up” on the eve of the final round.

“Oh, it feels great.” Woods said at the time. Less than 24 hours later he was headed home after 11 holes.

Woods seemed to fuel speculation he would skip the Deutsche Bank on Monday when he withdrew from the NB3 Foundation Challenge, a charity event played on Wednesday and organized by friend Notah Begay III, to rest his ailing back.

But that move was akin to skipping an early-week practice. For Woods, who has in recent years predicated many of his more “big picture” answers on his ability to stay healthy, his decision to play this week won’t be based on points or Player of the Year implications so much as it is a more profound statement on the greater narrative.

There are going to be aches and pains, but if the long-term diagnosis remains clean – it has now been nearly 17 months since his last injury-induced withdrawal from an official Tour event – there is reason to remain optimistic.

And for a player who has spent more than his share of time in a doctor’s office in recent years, maybe that’s what turns a good year into a great one.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.