Billion-Dollar Question

By Jason SobelJuly 5, 2011, 8:07 pm

If you’re surprised by Tuesday’s announcement that Tiger Woods will miss next week’s Open Championship due to lingering injuries, you’re likely surprised by other recent occurrences, too.

Sunrise every morning. Traffic at rush hour. Water in the ocean.

All of ‘em are about as shocking as Woods making his most recent declaration.

It was only a week ago when the 14-time major champion maintained during a press conference that there is “no timetable” for his return. Woods often keeps the public in the dark when discussing his injuries, his schedule and, well, just about everything else, but he just may have been telling the truth here.

Which leads to the million-dollar – or based on his earnings, maybe billion-dollar – question: When will he return to competitive golf?

I can safely report that I absolutely, positively have no idea.

But I don’t feel bad about it, because I’m not alone. You, dear reader, don’t know when he’s coming back, either. Nor do my colleagues in the golf media. Or Woods’ fellow players. Or his doctors.

Or Tiger himself.

That’s right. Woods isn’t saying when he’ll return for one simple reason. Like the rest of us, he, too, has no idea.

That will be considered bad news to those who wish to see the world’s 17th ranked player return sooner rather than later, but really, it should be viewed in a more positive light. Instead of rushing back to action as he’s done in the past – including nine holes before withdrawing at The Players Championship two months ago, a move which he claims set back the recovery process – Woods now maintains that he will wait until he’s fully prepared to compete once again.

“I am only going to come back when I'm 100 percent ready,” he said through a statement on his personal website. “I do not want to risk further injury. That's different for me, but I'm being smarter this time. I'm very disappointed and want to express my regrets to the British Open fans.'

Of course, we can debate what the translation of “100 percent ready” really signifies. Does that mean he won’t play until the leg injuries are fully healed? Or does it mean he won’t play until he is mentally prepared to compete with such injuries?

Truth be told, no professional athlete is ever really “100 percent” – and yes, that includes golfers. Walk the practice range at any PGA Tour event and you’ll find players with every sort of ailment imaginable, often playing through pain.

If Woods is indeed waiting until he is 100 percent healthy, it may be a long wait. Earlier this year, when asked the last time he wasn’t hampered by an injury, he intimated, “It was about six years ago, to be honest, so it's been a while. I've been hurt quite a bit over that period of time.”

And so we’re left with only speculation as to when we will see Woods on the golf course once again.

The next tournament on his usual schedule is the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational four weeks from now. Though he finished in a share of 78th place in an 80-player field last year at Firestone, it’s a course on which he’s very comfortable, having won the event seven times since 1999.

It would be a logical place to return, considering that success rate and the event’s placement on the schedule, directly preceding the PGA Championship.

If he’s still not “100 percent ready” to play in Akron, but can give it a go one week later at Atlanta Athletic Club, it wouldn’t be a precedent-setting move. Three years ago, Woods took two months off prior to a major, only to win the U.S. Open; last year, he ended his self-imposed leave of absence at the Masters, finishing in a share of fourth place.

Should Woods not come back at either the Bridgestone or PGA, though, all bets are off as to when we may see him swing a golf club.

He likely won’t be eligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs, as he currently sits in 116th place on the points list. He won’t play any Fall Finish events, because, well, he never does. And then there is such overseas tournaments as the HSBC Champions in China.

The smart money might be on the Chevron World Challenge, which not-so-coincidentally counts Woods as host, though he would have to remain inside the world’s top 50 in order to gain a sponsor’s exemption – something that shouldn’t necessarily be considered a given right now.

It may be a long time before Woods is playing competitive golf or it may not be very long at all. What we do know is that his return is still an unknown – not just for us, but for him, as well. If we are to believe what he says, it won’t happen until he is finally “100 percent ready.”

Getty Images

Fisher becomes first in Euro Tour history to shoot 59

By Ryan LavnerSeptember 21, 2018, 11:29 am

There’s never been a sub-60 score on the European Tour, and Oliver Fisher almost went two strokes better Friday at the Portugal Masters.

Fisher’s 40-footer on the final green burned the edge, but he tapped in the short par putt to record the first 59 in tour history.   

“It feels great,” he said after getting sprayed with champagne. “It was in the back of my mind all day.”

It didn’t look like it.

The 287th-ranked player in the world, Fisher made 10 birdies, an eagle and seven pars during his magical round.

All of the other major pro tours have produced a 59 – nine times on the PGA Tour; once on the LPGA – but this was the first time that a player on the European Tour broke the sub-60 barrier. (There have been 19 rounds of 60.) Earlier this year, at the Scottish Open, Brandon Stone narrowly missed an 8-footer on the final green during the final round. This tournament has produced a few chances, as well, with both Scott Jamieson and Nicolas Colsaerts coming up just short over the past few years.

Fisher went out in 28 at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, then made three birdies in a row to start the back nine. He tacked on another birdie on 15 to give himself a shot at history, then played the closing stretch in 1 under. On 16, he needed a 20-footer for par after leaving his tee shot well short of the flag. He two-putted for birdie on 17 and then coolly made par on the last, after his birdie try from 40 feet just missed on the left edge.

Two years ago, he arrived in Portugal needed a good result just to keep his card. He shot a final-round 64. 

On Friday, he made tour history.

“I kept that in the back of my mind, thinking things could be worse,” he said. 

To this point, Fisher had a forgettable season. Ranked 72nd in the Race to Dubai, he didn’t have a top-10 in a stroke-play event since late February. His last four results: MC-T71-MC-MC. He opened the Portugal Masters with a 71 and was in danger of missing the cut.

Now, improbably, he’s in position to score his second European Tour title, after capturing the 2011 Czech Open.

“I tried to enjoy it,” he said. “It’s not often that we get a chance to shoot a really low one.”

Getty Images

Paisley (61) leads Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 20, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Chris Paisley birdied four of the last five holes for a 10-under 61 and the first-round lead Thursday in the season-ending Tour Championship.

The South African Open winner in January for his first European Tour title, Paisley played the back nine first at Atlantic Beach Country Club, holing a bunker shot for an eagle on the par-5 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the par-3 fifth and finished with three straight birdies.

''I think just all around was really good,'' Paisley said. ''I hit it well off the tee, which gave me a lot of kind of short irons into the greens and opportunities. I hit a lot of really good iron shots close, and then a few other bonus kind of things happened where I holed the bunker shot on 18 and holed a long putt on No. 8.''

The 32-year-old Englishman missed the cuts in the first three Tour Finals events after getting into the series as a non-member PGA Tour with enough money to have placed in the top 200 in the FedEx Cup. The final card went for $40,625 last year, with Paisley needs to finish in a two-way tie for fourth or better to mathematically have a chance to secure one of the 25 PGA Tour at stake.

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

''The nice thing was I won early in the year in Europe,'' said Paisley, a former University of Tennessee player. ''I've got the first two Final series events locked up, I think I'm in those. I'm not guaranteed to be in Dubai yet. But I just thought we have a house over here, my wife's American, my goal is to try to get on the PGA Tour, so it was a perfect opportunity to try and do it.''

Cameron Tringale and Canadian Ben Silverman were two strokes back at 63. Tringale is tied for 83rd in the PGA Tour card race with $2,660, and Silverman is tied for 85th at $2,600.

''I hit a lot of good shots and made some good putts,'' Silverman said. ''Actually, it could have been lower, but I'm not complaining. Missed a couple putts inside 6x feet, but I'm not complaining at all, it was a great round.''

Lucas Glover was at 64 with Ben Crane, Nicholas Lindheim, Matt Every, Trevor Cone, Denny McCarthy, Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez. Carlos Ortiz and Jose de Jesus Rodriguez earned PGA Tour cards as top-25 finishers on the Tour regular-season money list, and McCarthy has made $75,793 in the first three Finals events to also wrap up a card. In the race for the 25 cards, Lindholm is 19th with $35,836, Every 30th with $25,733, Glover 40th with $17,212, and Cone 59th with $8,162

The series features the top 75 players from the regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and Paisley and other non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top-25 finishers on the regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals. The other players are fighting for the 25 cards based on series earnings.

Getty Images

McIlroy likely to join PGA Tour PAC next year

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:28 pm

ATLANTA – The upside of the PGA Tour’s sweeping changes to next year’s playoff finale, along with a host of other significant changes to the schedule, seems to be more engagement in circuit policy by top players.

Jordan Spieth served on the player advisory council this season and will begin his three-year term as one of four player directors on the policy board next year, and Justin Thomas also was on this year’s PAC.

Those meetings might become even more high profile next year.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I'm not on the PAC. I'm probably going to join the PAC next year. Nice to sort of know what's going on and give your input and whatever,” Rory McIlroy said following his round on Thursday at the Tour Championship.

McIlroy said he spoke with Tour commissioner Jay Monahan about the transition to a strokes-based format for the Tour Championship starting next year. Given his take on Thursday to the media it must have been an interesting conversation.

“I like it for the FedExCup. I don't necessarily think it should be an official Tour win. I don't know how the World Ranking points are going to work,” said McIlroy, who is tied for fifth after a first-round 67 at East Lake. “There's a lot of stuff that still needs to be figured out. But in terms of deciding the FedExCup, I think it's good.”

Getty Images

Thomas (67) happy to feel no pain in wrist

By Rex HoggardSeptember 20, 2018, 11:03 pm

ATLANTA – When Justin Thomas arrived at East Lake he didn’t have very high expectations.

After injuring his right wrist during the final round of the BMW Championship he spent last week in south Florida getting therapy after being diagnosed with a case of tendinitis and little else.

He said he didn’t hit a full shot last week and didn’t expect much out of his game at the finale, but was pleasantly surprised with his play following an opening 67 that left him tied for fifth place and two strokes off the lead. But most of all he was pleased that he didn’t feel any pain in his wrist.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I thought that I may not be playing very well because of my preparation being able to hit as few balls as I have, but no, in terms of pain, it's not an issue,” he said.

Thomas explained that he tested the wrist earlier this week to be sure he was pain-free and conceded he considered not playing the Tour Championship in order to be as healthy as possible for next week’s Ryder Cup.

“If it would have hurt at all, I wouldn't have played,” said Thomas, who will be a rookie on this year’s U.S. team. “No. 1 most important part is my future and my career. I don't want to do anything that's going to put me out for a while. But to me, second most important is Ryder Cup. I would rather not play this week and play the Ryder Cup and be fresh and make sure I'm going to get as many points for the team as possible.”