1. Some Tiger perspective
It has been just over six months since Tiger Woods’ latest back surgery, and if he has played an 18-hole round of golf in the past few days, it would be his first since the Oct. 28 procedure, which was his second second such procedure in six weeks and third overall in 19 months.
And that one round would make him ready to play competitive golf at the Players Championship next week? Or at the Memorial Tournament next month? Or the U.S. Open at Oakmont, one of the hardest courses on the planet?
Woods’ failure to play golf over the past six months says something about the toll taken by the Oct. 28 surgery, details of which Woods has not disclosed. That eight months have passed since he last played a tournament ought to be a hint that this was always going to be a long, tedious recovery process.
If Woods comes back next week or next month at the U.S. Open, the prevailing wisdom suggests it will be too soon — unless Woods can do something that he’s never been able to do: lower expectations and play without worrying about winning.
Many seem to think that Woods needs to play a tournament or two before teeing it up in the U.S. Open or The Open at Royal Troon. As if Woods would be using any tournaments at this stage to prepare for a major championship that, frankly, he cannot win right now.
Whenever he returns, it needs to be with the idea of building for the future. Clearly part of the process is to get comfortable again inside the ropes, go through the ups and downs of playing 72-hole tournaments preceded by practice rounds and pro-ams. Has Woods even put together 72 holes over four days yet? Probably not.
That is why the idea of him playing next week seems out of touch. Sure, Woods could come back and say he’s just trying to get acclimated to playing tournament golf again, that he has no illusions of contending with the likes of Jason Day and Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy and that nobody should read much into his results. Any other player returning from injury would approach it that way.
“I don’t have that luxury,” Woods said, acknowledging that whenever he returns, he will be expected to compete. “And that’s all right.”
The good news for Woods is that he is eager to return. That is a good sign, but not if he starts rushing to prepare for majors he can’t win. Remember how that played out in 2015?
2. Hail Quail
After the Masters, the game’s top players typically undergo a bit of a relax-and-regroup period, which is why they’ve made just a smattering of starts over the past three weeks. That changes in a big way this week, as eight of the top 12 players in the world are teeing it up at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Golf Club. Among them will be defending champion McIlroy, who shot a third-round 61 a year ago on his way to victory.
That happens to be McIlroy’s last PGA Tour win, and he is the only player ranked among the top 5 who doesn’t have a victory in 2016.
3. Spieth speaks
Aside from posting on social media about his Bahamas vacation, Spieth has been quiet and mostly out of sight since the final round of the Masters, where he lost a 5-shot lead over the closing nine holes at Augusta National, including the par-3 12th, where he infamously made a 7.
That changed on Tuesday when Spieth spoke as part of a sponsorship deal; he was scheduled to play Oakmont Country Club on Wednesday morning and then conduct interviews with local media.
Spieth said he “laughs about it now” because the subject “keeps coming up,” which is both good and bad. It’s good that he seems to be moving on, but not so good if the persistent questions and talk bother him.
4. ‘Absolutely brutal’
Even the Web.com Tour’s Twitter account could not help but comment on the incredible bad break Cody Gribble got when playing his approach shot to the final hole of the United Leasing & Finance Championship. Gribble finished a stroke back of winner Seamus Power of Ireland.
Cody Gribble finishes one back. https://t.co/KXKN9NTJvS
— Web.com Tour (@WebDotComTour) May 1, 2016
5. Short-game magic
Brian Stuard got his first PGA Tour victory when he captured the weather-marred Zurich Classic of New Orleans on Monday in a playoff. To get there, Stuard had the kind of short-game performance that players dream about.
Not only did he fail to make a bogey (the tournament was shortened to 54 holes), but he made all 44 putts he faced inside of 10 feet. He was 20 out of 20 for the week in scrambling, or getting up and down from off the green.
6. Cink takes leave
Stewart Cink withdrew from the Wells Fargo Championship on Tuesday and we later learned why. The 2009 Open champion disclosed via Twitter that his wife, Lisa, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Cink said he will take time away from the PGA Tour.
— Stewart Cink (@stewartcink) May 3, 2016
7. A knock on the door … at almost any time.
Golfers who are potentially eligible to compete in the Olympic Games in August will be subject to the drug-testing system employed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
The program begins Friday, three months before the start of the Olympic tournament week.
And this program will be a good deal different from the drug testing players are subject to on the professional tours. Instead of random tests administered at tournament sites, players need to provide officials with their whereabouts so they can be tested at any time.
Another difference? Blood testing, which the professional tours do not administer.
While the process will be different, players should not be surprised by the protocol. They’ve been apprised of the situation since about a year ago, and their agents and representatives have also been told what will happen.
8. Killing time
With the numerous delays in New Orleans due to bad weather, everyone was left to wait it out, especially on Sunday, which proved to be a long day in which very little golf was played. Scott Langley took to Twitter to thank fellow pro Robert Garrigus for taking care of a bunch of people while they waited.
In the midst of all these delays the MVP award goes to Garrigus. Picked up 20 pizzas for volunteers, players, caddies. #theman
— Scott Langley (@Scott_Langley) May 1, 2016
9. The size of a postage stamp
You will hear a lot about this hole leading up to The Open at Royal Troon, the par-3 eighth known as the Postage Stamp.
— The Open (@TheOpen) May 2, 2016