Woods will be wise to take all the time he needs

By Rex HoggardNovember 4, 2015, 1:27 pm

Just before noon on Wednesday at his new Florida watering hole, Tiger Woods was scheduled to speak with the U.S. media for the first time since undergoing his second microdisectomy surgery.

He would have told the gathered scribes that it’s “certainly disappointing,” but that he anticipates a “full recovery,” because that’s what he said in a statement on his website following the September surgery, and no one stays on message better than Woods.

But Tiger was unable to explain any this on Wednesday at The Woods Jupiter because of another “procedure” last month to “relieve discomfort” in his back.

Instead, he is on “bed rest” and will also miss his final design visit to Bluejack National outside of Houston this week. He has subtly downgraded his immediate competitive outlook from “as soon as possible” next season to having “no timetable.”

Although that open-ended outlook isn’t what fans were hoping for, it may be the most forthright assessment Woods has served up in some time.

Considering the revolving door to the DL that has become Woods’ reality for the better part of the last decade, he’s played the PGA Tour minimum of at least 15 events just five times since 2006, a more measured comeback may be the best option.

“For a lot of high-level athletes who have not come back to the level of performance that they had once had it is because they were in a rush to get back,” said Randy Myers, director of fitness at Sea Island (Ga.) Resort. “Not Tiger specifically, but in general. You’ve never heard a Tour player say he waited too long to get back.”

Click here for a timeline of Tiger Woods' injury history

Myers has seen the phenomenon repeated early and often – from Davis Love III, who underwent spinal-fusion surgery in 2013, to Brandt Snedeker, who has endured multiple hip surgeries, the long road to recovery far too often turns into a dangerous express lane.

This isn’t necessarily a Tiger problem as much as it is an athlete problem. Those who have spent a lifetime between the ropes are genetically averse to watching the action from the sidelines no matter how many voices preach caution.

Woods has certainly heard all the warnings, from his Utah surgeon to his fellow Tour players, including Love and Jason Bohn, who had the same microdisectomy surgery performed in 2008.

Bohn said he and Woods have discussed the unique set of challenges that come with back surgery, including the recovery timeline that Bohn said stretched for a full year before he felt “100 percent.”

“You’re body has changed and it will never be back to what it was,” Bohn said. “I don’t think it’s possible, scientifically, to get it back to exactly where it was. It could be better, it could be worse, but when you remove anything and cut anything, you’ve changed something.”

For Bohn, that meant rebuilding his golf swing with an eye toward avoiding similar injuries in the future. Woods has tried something similar, first teaming with Sean Foley and then Chris Como in an attempt to ward off continued issues with his back as well as his left knee.

Although Bohn and Woods are separated by 14 majors, there are more similarities than one would think between the two as patients if not players. Bohn was 35 when his ailing back sent him to the surgeon’s table (Woods is 39) and Bohn required three back surgeries (like Woods) to remedy the ailment.

Like Woods, Bohn also went through a major swing overhaul post-op.

“To a golfer who's done something his whole life a particular way, it’s like starting over,” Bohn said. “From the grip all the way to the rotation of the forearms, and every time you change one thing it reflects in another part of your game.”

Initially, Bohn – who won on Tour two years after surgery – said his rebuilt swing and back didn’t produce the same amount of power or consistency he was used to, but that evolved over time. He now says he’s a better “overall” player than he was before his assorted surgeries.

He also concedes that back surgeries, and the ensuing rehabilitation, do not come in one-size-fits-all helpings.

“Each individual recovers different from any type of surgery,” Bohn said.

Woods has referenced his general level of fitness as an advantage during the rehab process, although history suggests it may be a psychological Trojan Horse given his inability to stay out of the doctor’s office.

Woods won’t play his own Hero World Challenge, although he said he will be upright and in the Bahamas for next month’s event, which would be considered a victory of sorts. Depending on who you ask, wild speculation ranges from a return during next year’s Florida swing (Arnold Palmer Invitational) to an entire season on the bench.

But at this point it’s just that: wild speculation.

There was a melancholy edge to last Friday’s news that there had been a third procedure.

“There is no timetable for Woods’ return to the PGA Tour.” 

Yet what some see as a too open-ended outlook may mean a more open-minded Woods. If this most recent setback leads to a longer view, and probably a longer stint on the DL, it all may be worth the wait.

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

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McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.