Upbeat Woods a sight for sore eyes at Bluejack

By Ryan LavnerMarch 2, 2016, 9:45 pm

MONTGOMERY, Texas – Based on recent reports, you half expected to see Tiger Woods require a cane, wheelchair or gurney here at Bluejack National during his first public appearance in three months.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

With a row of cameras eagerly awaiting his arrival onto the back patio of Blake Cottage, Woods bounded up the wooden steps with a smile, shook a few hands and sat comfortably in a director’s chair for the next 40 minutes.

Speaking publicly for the first time since his World Challenge event in December, Woods made it clear Wednesday that he is making progress.  

He is playing catch with his kids.

He is chipping and putting in the backyard with son Charlie.

He is hitting soft 9-iron shots.

He is working out and getting stronger, though he still has a long way to go.  

But the big question – the ONLY question – is when Woods will return to competition. It went unanswered.

Sorry, but he still hasn’t even the slightest idea.

“I really don’t know,” he said … over and over again.

Wearing a charcoal vest, pink polo and gray slacks, Woods looked fit and healthy, his upper body as chiseled as ever. If he felt any discomfort sitting for 40 minutes, he didn’t show any signs. Before the news conference, Tiger toured Bluejack National, his first domestic design that immediately recalls Augusta, while riding shotgun in a golf cart with plush white seats emblazoned with the course logo. Following his interview session with about a dozen reporters, Woods held a private, members-only tour of The Place, a Nike Golf Performance Center, and The Playgrounds, a lighted, 10-hole short course designed for families.

Woods’ news conference was decidedly more upbeat and optimistic than his most recent gathering with the media, in December, when he painted a grim picture about his recovery, saying there was “nothing I can look forward to,” that any other achievements in his career will be “gravy” and that he couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel with his recovery.

“It’s a heck of a lot better than then,” he said. “I wasn’t feeling very good and you could see it all over me.”

Perhaps in an attempt to curb many of the health-related inquiries, Woods preempted the news conference by releasing a brief update on his website detailing his ongoing rehabilitation. Answering questions Wednesday, Woods reiterated that he’s only been able to hit 9-irons, nothing more, and has yet to even play a nine-hole round.

Of the rumors on social media that he had suffered a setback, needed to sit fully reclined in a car and couldn’t climb stairs, Woods tilted his head back and laughed.

“Welcome to my life,” he said.

Woods hasn’t played since the Wyndham Championship on Aug. 23, which was, ironically, his best performance of a dismal year. Despite being bothered by what he thought was a sore hip, he trailed by only two shots heading into the final round and eventually tied for 10th.

Woods underwent a microdiscectomy on Sept. 16, his second back surgery in the span of about 18 months, and announced about a month later that he needed another undisclosed procedure to relieve discomfort.

This recovery, Woods cautioned, isn’t as straightforward as, say, reconstructive knee surgery, which usually follows a nine-month timetable. “Dealing with nerves,” he said, “there is no timetable. Everyone heals differently and every nerve is slightly different.”

And so he waits, for baby steps and benchmarks. He waits until he can chase after his kids. Until he can increase his hours in the weight room. Until he can work through every club in the bag. Then, and only then, can the thought of a Tour return even come into focus.

“I’ve played through a lot of injuries,” he said. “I’ve cost myself other tournaments by pushing through that, I’ve cost myself months and years because of it. But that’s what athletes do. They play through pain and deal with injuries. It’s part of playing sports.

“Has it cost me? Yeah, it has. But that’s what athletes do. They’re always pushing the envelope to compete at the highest level.”

But now Woods seems content to wait until he’s fully healthy, or as close as a 40-year-old with four knee surgeries and now three back procedures can get. He knows the consequences of pushing too hard, of rushing back from injury – he just lived through it for the past few months, when he was a depressed bystander watching his kids play.

“The only thing I do know,” he said, “is that I’m progressing, I’m getting better, I’m getting stronger, and I just have to take it day by day. It’s changed dramatically. I have to keep that momentum going and hopefully continue doing that and eventually get out here, hopefully sooner rather than later.”

The local cameramen were long gone by the time Woods ambled over to the 81-yard first hole at The Playgrounds for the official opening of his short course.

The second player on the tee was 11-year-old Taylor Crozier, who took a swipe with an iron as Woods watched nearby. Crozier’s ball hopped along the bumps and mounds and dropped for a hole-in-one. The crowd exploded.

Woods yelled and threw up his arms, swallowing the kid in a bear hug. "Inaugural shot," Woods said, "and he holes it!"

Once he realized that he needed to follow up the ace, Woods put his hands on his white cap and schlepped over to the tee.

Using a putter, he took a big swing and nearly holed the damn thing. When his ball took a peek at the cup and rolled past, Woods whirled around and smiled. Yes, he’s on the mend.

Spieth, Thomas headline winter break trip to Cabo

By Grill Room TeamDecember 15, 2017, 1:05 am

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth. Really good at golf. Really good at vacationing.

With #SB2K18 still months away, Thomas and Spieth headlined a vacation to Cabo San Lucas, and this will shock you but it looks like they had a great time.

Spring break veteran Smylie Kaufman joined the party, as did Thomas' roommate, Tom Lovelady, who continued his shirtless trend.

The gang played all the hits, including shoeless golf in baketball jerseys and late nights with Casamigos tequila.

Image via tom.lovelady on Instagram.

In conclusion, it's still good to be these guys.

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.