DeLaet knows first hand the severity of Tiger's injury

By Ryan LavnerApril 2, 2014, 4:40 pm

HUMBLE, Texas – The pain in Graham DeLaet’s lower back and right leg was so unbearable that he couldn’t sit still for more than 10 seconds at a time. He lost sensation in a few toes. His quality of life became more pressing than his golf game.

“It was the worst pain in my life,” he says now.

And three years ago, Graham DeLaet underwent the same back surgery – a microdiscectomy, for a pinched nerve – that Tiger Woods had earlier this week.

No two surgeries are alike, of course, but DeLaet didn’t hit balls for four months (and even that was too soon), he needed a year to fully recover, and even now he concedes, “I’m not sure I’ll ever be 100 percent again.”

To be clear, DeLaet hasn’t examined Woods’ MRI. He doesn’t know the discomfort he was experiencing. But, DeLaet says, “if he had the same surgery I had, then I’m sure he was dealing with the same symptoms I had.”

DeLaet has dealt with back pain for much of his career, but it came to a head during the 2010 season, his rookie year on Tour. Fighting to keep his card, he continued to play despite shooting pain down his right side. The discomfort would flare up and subside, never on schedule, making it difficult to anticipate when the next episode would come. His herniated disk was “the worst my doctor and physiotherapist had ever seen,” DeLaet said.

“When the pain was at its worst,” he said, “golf was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted to live a regular life. I wanted to be able to play catch with my kids.”

After surgery, the first chunk of DeLaet’s rehab was simply walking – around the block, then a few spins, then up to 4-5 miles per day.

DeLaet didn’t begin chipping and putting for three months; Woods said Tuesday that he hoped to begin doing that in three weeks.

DeLaet didn’t hit full shots until four months after surgery; Woods seemed to indicate that his timetable would be drastically shorter.

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DeLaet didn’t play a tournament until the six-month point, when he teed it up in three events in June. It was apparent then that he’d rushed back too soon, and he ended up shutting it down for the rest of the year, returning to competition at the Sony Open the following January. Though DeLaet played a full schedule in 2012, he never felt strong or competitive. On many shots he flinched at impact to protect his back, a move that resulted in a high flare to the right.

“They always say not to come back until you’re ready,” DeLaet said, “but everybody does. We’re all competitors. We want to compete. But you have to listen to your body.”

Woods seems to be doing that this time, going under the knife and sitting out the Masters for the first time since 1994. It was a difficult decision at a critical juncture in his career – coming off a five-win campaign, in a dead heat with the ghost of Jack Nicklaus (age-38 season, 64 major starts as a pro, 14 majors won).

The world No. 1 did not specify when he hoped to return to competition, saying only that his goal was to be back on Tour “sometime this summer.” That could mean any time, really – after The Players, after the U.S. Open, after major season, after the Ryder Cup. Already he has alluded to the fact that he will need to skip “several upcoming tournaments.”

But the 32-year-old Canadian – who was 10 years younger than Woods when he underwent the procedure – provides a window into what Woods can expect upon his return. Tiger’s days of intense weightlifting likely are done – DeLaet says he works “really hard” in the gym just to lessen the lingering effects. Woods’ swing might even need to be altered.

Not to go all WebMD on you, but DeLaet thinks his back issues were prompted by a lack of mobility in his hips and thoracic spine. Those weaknesses put undue torque on his lower back.

Now, even before doing such everyday tasks as looking under his car, DeLaet is conscious about setting his abdominal muscles before he moves, lest he tweak something.

“I’m still improving, each day,” he said. “I’m not sure I’ll ever be 100 percent again.”

Which means it is possible that Tiger won’t, either. 

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Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.

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Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.

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“Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

“I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

“I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”

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Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

“We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.

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Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

“My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

“Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”