Woods feels 'great'; play will tell us more

Tiger Woods during Wednesday's pro-am for the PGA Tour's 2014 Quicken Loans National at Congressional CC.
Tiger Woods during Wednesday's pro-am for the PGA Tour's 2014 Quicken Loans National at Congressional CC. ( Associated Press )

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Different injuries, different scenarios. But two things remain constant when Tiger Woods steps into what unfortunately has become the accustomed role of comeback kid:

One, it takes mere seconds for you to realize that there’s far more buzz when he tees it up.

And two, he seems to have a standard speech, because he sure says the same thing a lot.

Take the 2009 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, for example. It was Woods’ first tournament since his playoff victory in the 2008 U.S. Open, about an eight-month layoff after knee surgery. And just how was he feeling?

“I feel great. I mean, I didn't think it would feel this good before the surgery or even just after the surgery because I hadn't known what it's like to feel this way,” Woods said. “It's been so long. So to have it feel this healthy and this solid and secure, man, it's a great feeling.”

Fast forward to the 2011 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, when after having been sidelined since the Masters with a leg injury, Woods was asked how he felt.

“The great thing is, I don't feel a thing. It feels solid, it feels stable, no pain.”

And when was the last time he felt this good?

“Years,” he said.

Now comes the 2014 Quicken Loans National, at which Woods, recovered from a microdiscectomy, was asked how he felt.

“It's been a very, very long time. Probably a good two years since I've felt this way.”

OK, we get it. He gets hurt. He gets fixed. He has never felt better.

Best not to get hung up on his words, then. Best to study his track record when it comes to these layoffs. When he left the game to have knee surgery after the 2008 U.S. Open, Woods was miles ahead as the No. 1 player in the world, and when he came back at the Match Play the following winter he was still No. 1. Soon, the wins started coming and he continued on with what would be a 281-week run as No. 1.

The last return after a lengthy health issue came at the Bridgestone in 2011, and Woods had plummeted to No. 28 in the world. Before going on the shelf for 12 weeks with a leg injury, Woods had been No. 5 at the Masters, so he clearly had his work cut out for him.

It ended up taking him 27 PGA Tour tournaments (he won six of them) over about 20 months to regain the top spot.

Now he doesn’t have as big a world-ranking hole to pull himself out of this time around, because Woods has slipped only to No. 5. But if he is healthy enough to put together a run of tournaments (Quicken Loans, Open Championship, Bridgestone, PGA), there are two other positions that are more pressing:

• He sits 67th in the Ryder Cup standings, 19 places behind Andrew Svoboda.

• He is 209th in the Fed Ex Cup standings, which leaves him 19 points behind John Daly and 34 behind David Duval. John Daly? David Duval? What is this, a time tunnel?

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