Hate to be Rude: No hurry for Woods to return
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
All right, so Tiger Woods was a fast learner in golf but a slower learner when it comes to returning from injury.
Woods, of course, has defied doctors’ orders in the past, most notably winning the 2008 U.S. Open on a broken leg that soon after required reconstructed knee surgery.
In May, Woods came back to The Players unprepared and too soon after suffering so-called “mild” injuries to his left leg (sprained knee, strained Achilles’ tendon) about a month earlier at the Masters. Then he reinjured the leg while playing only nine sickly holes in 42.
Now Woods says he has wised up, that he’s not rushing things, that he has no preconceived timetables on returning other than 100 percent health. He says he’s listening to doctors and erring on the side of caution because he doesn’t want to suffer yet another setback.
Smart move. He’s 35 and, at 14 major championships, still can catch Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 if his body is healed.
The curious part of his announcement Tuesday, though, is that Woods didn’t rule out playing in the July 14-17 British Open even though he hasn’t hit balls since early May. This is the same Woods who used to say ad nauseam that he wouldn’t play a tournament unless he felt ready.
Apparently there are different degrees of ready. Even for Tiger Woods now.
I’d be surprised if he plays the British. His participation would seem to contradict his stated convictions.
• I can’t think of anything in golf this year that has warmed my heart more than Erik Compton’s victory Sunday at the Nationwide Tour’s Mexico Open.
It’s not just that he’s a great guy. It’s not just that he has gone through two heart transplants. It’s not just all the adversity he has overcome in the past because of a weak immune system. On top of that, he gutted it out in high altitude, plowed through while cramping down the stretch, won even though his body was beaten up.
In case you didn’t know it before, he’s not a curiosity. He’s a player.
The best news: The win all but assures him of a PGA Tour card for the first time next year.
• And now a word about the Junk Man.
Several years ago, after watching a disheveled Fredrik Jacobson slap it around and shoot good scores thanks to excellent scrambling, another scribe and I nicknamed him the Junk Man. Sometimes plays like one, sometimes looks like one.
Well, the Junk Man hauled off a big trophy and a $1.08 million check on Sunday at the Travelers Championship.
This is what can happen when a great putter improves his ball-striking skill, as the 36-year-old Swede has this year. At the Travelers, Jacobson hit 85.7 percent of his fairways, ranking third, and didn’t miss any of the 28 fairways on the weekend.
That’s big departure from years past, and it was lethal considering the way he putts. He led the field in the new category of strokes gained – putting. He also tied for third in putts per round. Hence, he played his first 63 holes without a bogey and made only one for the week.
Dating to 2006, the Junk Man has finished worse than 26th in scrambling just once. He has lived by the short game. Here’s how good it has been. In 2009, he ranked 143rd or worse in driving accuracy and greens in regulation but finished No. 77 in earnings. The year before, he was 142nd or worse in both categories but was 54th in earnings.
Now that he has broken through as a winner and is hitting the ball much better, the Junk Man might be picking up more hardware.
• Yani Tseng and Young Tom Morris each won four majors before age 23. Not only that, but each beat opponents named Park.
• One difference is that Tseng didn’t have to beat her father.
• Golf novices out there should know that Yani Tseng should not be confused with “Yanni sings.”
• Never know when a week or a round might break out. Tom Gillis had played his previous six tournaments in 56 over par entering last week. He has missed the cut in four of those. He shot 80-80 after making the HP Byron Nelson cut.
But then he goes to Hartford and ties for ninth with a 266 total. Moral: Don’t throw your clubs away after several weeks of chopping.
• Teenage golf is by far better than ever. Teens such as Ryo Ishikawa and Matteo Manassero have won professional tournaments. Patrick Cantlay shot 60 on the PGA Tour last week. Three incoming college freshmen have made the cut in Tour events and make up the best class in years.
Remarkably, the kids are excelling in an era with unprecedented depth.
Times have changed a bit since I was a skinny teen with glasses and braces and wooden clubs that would send balls two fairways over. Credit the current craze to the Tiger Woods Effect and the fact that golf instruction is better than it ever has been.
• Rory McIlroy went to Wimbledon this week and visited with John McEnroe. Let’s hope this doesn’t mean McIlroy will be screaming at people at Royal St. George’s.
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