Everything you need to know about Tiger’s return at Congressional
Tiger Woods is back this week at the Quicken Loans National, his own event that benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation and a regular PGA Tour that features a quality field at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland.
It’ll be the first time that any of us have seen Tiger on the golf course since the final round at Doral just over three months ago, where he limped around Donald Trump’s newly redesigned Blue Monster before deciding to go under the knife for back surgery. He’s missed two major championships, and has just started to hit full shots again, but he says he’s good to go and that a competitive tournament should help accelerate the recovery process.
Let’s take a look at what you need to know about Tiger’s return to the PGA Tour.
Three months for back surgery? Isn’t that kind of quick?
This may come as a surprise to you, but I’m not a doctor. From everything that we were told when Tiger mentioned that he had this microdisectomy surgery, the assumption was that the minimum recovery time was about three months, so I guess he’s in line with that kind of timetable, but yes, it does feel a little early when you hear that he just started hitting full shots over the past week or so.
Is there a chance that he could quickly re-injure himself?
Again, not a doctor, but from everything that I’ve read, there’s a very small chance of that happening. Apparently, this is more about pain tolerance than anything and there’s really no threat of him hurting his back in the same way again.
He’s only been hitting full shots for about a week?
That’s what he says, but I’m going to side with Nick Faldo on this one when he said over the weekend at the Travelers that he’s probably a little more prepared than he’s letting on. I’m not suggesting that Tim Rosaforte’s story on how he was seen at Medalist hitting full shots for the first time last week was inaccurate because it probably wasn’t, but it’s also not the only place that he can go and hit balls. And let’s be honest: it’s not like Tiger is one to let the media in on his day to day activities anyway.
So, do you think he’s ready to go?
Not necessarily. There was some talk that he’s being pressured into playing because of what this means to his foundation, but keep in mind that he didn’t play this event last year because of an elbow problem, so I doubt that he’s being forced into playing. We all know that Tiger wants to win major championships more than anything, but he also knows that he can’t just show up at Hoylake next month and expect to win. He’s probably not fully ready to go, but he knows that he probably needs to get a tune-up in before heading over for the Open, and this was the event that made the most sense.
How should we expect him to play?
Honestly, we should be expecting him to miss the cut. His track record at Congressional is solid, as is his record anywhere really, but this is still someone that hasn’t played in three months and didn’t look particularly good when he was out there anyway. Yes, he’s won his last two starts at Congressional, but it’s not an easy course by any means, especially with how undulating the terrain is, and the thick rough ready to punish if he misses the fairway. Unlike what we saw, say last week at the Travelers, Congressional is a difficult course to walk, which could be his biggest obstacle all week coming off of back surgery, especially when you consider that the rest of his body probably isn’t in game shape either.
With all of that said, you know that when he tees it up, he expects to do well. Anything less than a top-10 will probably be a disappointment to him on some level, but this is really just a tune-up for Hoylake, and that’s how we should all be looking at it.
When can we expect to see him again?
There were rumours floating around last week about a potential return to the Greenbrier, but that won’t happen. Assuming there are no setbacks this week, I’d be shocked to see him play anywhere else before Hoylake.
What does this mean for the PGA Tour?
Well, if he can stay healthy, we all know that Tiger is the big drawing card for the PGA Tour. He can bring people out to the course and have people tune in who otherwise really wouldn’t be doing so, and let’s get something straight about golf in 2014: outside of the LPGA Tour, it’s been dreadful. The WGC-Match Play was fun and the Colonial playoff between Jason Dufner and Adam Scott was pretty great, but outside of that, you can’t really tell me that there’s been anything special about the PGA Tour in 2014, and it’s not just about Tiger being inconsistent before going down with the back problem.
Phil Mickelson’s been bad and Rory’s been up and down. Outside of Martin Kaymer, what have the other big European stars really done? Poulter, Donald, Westwood, Rose, Garcia have been pretty quiet, and there’s only so much that Miguel Angel Jimenez can do at his age to keep things interesting. Say what you will about Tiger, but when he plays, things are usually interesting, and there’s a definite buzz about the event this week that we haven’t seen, majors aside, in a long time. I’m sure that Tom Watson is happy to see Tiger back too because let’s be honest, his American Ryder Cup team is looking a little rough at the moment.
The score doesn’t matter this week. What matters is that golf’s biggest star is back and it couldn’t have come at a better time.