Woods' return from back surgery offers challenges

By Rex HoggardJune 30, 2014, 7:45 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – Tiger Woods didn’t make the cut.

He didn’t earn any prize money, no FedEx Cup or Ryder Cup points – although given his current playoff predicament (209th in points) the former may be more concerning than the latter – and after an abbreviated workweek at his own Quicken Loans National he didn’t answer many questions, at least not the kind most observers were looking to be filled in.

Woods’ game was, by his own assessment, at times “awful;” rounds of 74-75 that left him almost as close to last place (17 over par) as it did the cut (3 over par).

Between flashes of decent play, Woods launched the occasional foul ball off the tee, missed greens with wedges from the middle of the fairway and, perhaps most concerning of all, played more like a 14 handicap around the greens than a guy with 14 majors.

He missed 16 greens in two days and salvaged par on just three occasions, needed 61 putts to cover 36 holes and converted two putts outside 20 feet.

After 15 weeks of mostly chipping and putting around Casa Tiger following back surgery on March 31, the company line suggested he’d be closer to game ready around the greens than he would be off the tee.

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“That’s all I've been doing is chipping and putting. I hit some bad shots. Those are bad pitches, and those are the ones I should get up-and-down every time,” Woods said on Friday.

But if Woods’ short week left the golf world asking, “What will Tiger do next?” it did provide a measure of solace for the former world No. 1.

As he explained on Tuesday at Congressional, he’s dealt with his share of medical missteps in his Hall of Fame career, but this time was different.

This time the defiant core that drove him to win a U.S. Open on one leg was replaced by the reality that this injury could not be beaten by dogged determination and bravado.

“This was different,” he explained on Tuesday. “Anyone's that's had any kind of nerve impingement, it's no joke. That part was relieved as soon as I got out of the surgery. That nerve impingement, that pain that I was feeling going down my leg was gone. I've heard numerous people talk about it, and I've had people come up to me and say they had the same procedure and got their life back, and that's basically how I felt.”

One of those people Woods spoke to about the microdiscectomy was Jason Bohn, who underwent the same procedure in the summer of 2008.

“I couldn’t even go to the bathroom before I had the surgery,” said Bohn, who was one of the first players to welcome Woods back on Tuesday at Congressional. “Before the surgery I had no muscle function in my left leg; it had completely shut down.”

Bohn knows the inherent difficulties with having a microdiscectomy, primarily the divergent realities of being pain free – which, in Woods’ case, ended more than two years of flinches and spasms – and doctor’s orders to remain almost sedentary in the weeks just after surgery.

“The rehab is the most difficult thing because the rehab is zero,” Bohn said. “You can’t do anything, and we both talked about how difficult that is with your children. They see you, you’re home now and they want to play and you just can’t do it.”

The two kindred spirits also talked about the inevitable uncertainty of a return to competition. In Bohn’s case, his return was rushed by peculiar circumstances.

Bohn needed two late starts in 2008 to maintain his status and conceded he was not Tour ready when he set out at the Ginn sur Mer Classic in November, just months after his surgery.

“There is so much apprehension. When you’re hitting out of the rough you’re thinking, ‘Am I going to hurt something?’” Bohn said.

Whatever Woods failed to prove to the media or fans there was a distinct feeling that despite his “awful” play at the Quicken Loans National he cleared a much more important psychological hurdle.

As pedestrian as Woods’ short game was he became more and more aggressive off the tee as two hot days in the nation’s capital wore on. He may not have worked his way back to “game speed,” but for a guy who has now missed just 10 cuts on the PGA Tour as professional he seemed less concerned with his score than his psyche.

“I hate to say it but I'm really encouraged by what happened this week,” Woods said on his way out of town. “As I said, I missed the cut by four shots. That's a lot. But the fact that what I was able to do physically and the speed I had and distance that I was hitting the golf ball again, I had not done that in a very long time.”

While the Open Championship, which is expected to be Woods’ next start, remains a mystery for the last man to hoist the claret jug at Royal Liverpool in 2006, he conquered his own internal dialogue.

Not bad for a guy who only put in half a week.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

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The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

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''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

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The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.

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Defending champ Gana co-leads Latin America Amateur

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 11:20 pm

Toto Gana moved into early position to try to win a return trip to the Masters Saturday by grabbing a share of the first-round lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship.

The defending champ posted a 3-under-par 68 at Prince of Wales Country Club in his native Chile, equaling the rounds of Argentina’s Mark Montenegro and Colombia’s Pablo Torres.

They are one shot ahead of Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz and Mario Carmona, Argentina’s Horacio Carbonetti and Jaime Lopez Rivarola and the Dominican Republic’s Rhadames Pena.

It’s a bunched leaderboard, with 19 players within three shots of each at the top of the board in the 72-hole event.

“I think I have my game under control,” said Gana, 20, a freshman at Lynn University. “I hit the ball very well, and I also putted very well. So, I am confident about tomorrow.”

The LAAC’s champion will get more than a Masters invitation. He also will be exempt into the The Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and any other USGA event he is eligible to play this year. The champion and players who finish runner-up are also exempt into the final stages of qualifying for The Open and the U.S. Open.

The LAAC was founded by the Masters, the R&A and the USGA, with the purpose of further developing amateur golf in South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.