Can Day spoil Woods' return?
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2014 Quicken Loans National | Preview | 25 Jun 2014
The golfing world eagerly awaits the return to competitive golf this week for the now world number five, Tiger Woods, playing his first event since the WGC Cadillac event in early March, this time at what is essentially an event he has been involved with, the Quicken Loans National at the Congressional Country Club in Maryland.
The tournament is a continuation of the AT&T National which has been played at Congressional Country Club in five of its seven previous years, the two times it was not played at this venue were the years Congressional was being prepared for and recovering from the 2011 US Open.
Since his last appearance, Woods has undergone what appears to be successful back surgery, suggesting this week that he was playing pain free for the first time for some while.
“It’s been a very, very long time,” said Woods. "Probably a good two years since I’ve felt this way, because I had the Achilles, and that went away, and then I started getting this back thing. But the thing is, initially with my back, it was week-to-week.
“You know, I have good weeks where I felt fantastic, and those were the weeks I actually played well last year. I won five times last year. And then there were weeks where I just couldn’t move; what is going on here. And then it started progressively deteriorating from there and it got to a point where I had to pull out of an event and struggle through the last round I played in.
“It’s been an interesting road. You know, this has been quite a tedious little process, but been one where I got to a point where I can play competitive golf again, and it’s pretty exciting.
“I’m actually probably ahead of schedule than — well, everyone thought I would be at. We all thought that it was going to be — the British Open would be my first event back. But I healed fast. As I said, I’ve had great trainers and great physios help me every day with soft tissue work; the cold baths which was no fun but you’ve got to do it. When you get treatment all the time, it’s amazing what you can do. And also, nutritionally, making sure I eat perfect. Anti-inflammatory meals, all the different things I needed to do to get back.
“It’s a normality in other sports. If you play football or hockey or any other sport, this is just common. But I think in the golfing world, looking at most of the physiques, it’s not really that common. But having friends who are in other sports, it does help what they went through and what they have done and what their protocols are for their teams. You know, here we are.”
Woods has won the event on two previous occasions at this venue and although he might be not quite ready for the intensity of contention at this level he is Tiger Woods after all and has done it before, returning to win after an extensive break.
Jason Day stands out as a real chance to win his third PGA Tour event. He too has struggled with injury of late but like Woods now appears ready to contend on a regular basis as his 4th place finish at the US Open and his last round of 65 last week in Hartford would suggest.
Importantly for Day’s chances is that he has good memories of Congressional having finished runner-up on debut at the US Open there in 2011 and finishing 8th in this particular event in 2012.
“Obviously this is a pretty special spot,” said Day."This is a spot where I finished second at the 2011 U.S. Open. I’ve had like John said, a couple of Top-10 finishes here and definitely looking forward to playing this week and hopefully we get some nice weather. Coming off a thumb injury. Played three events now, so I feel like I’m kind of getting back in the swing of things and everything feels good.
“I’ve come off a good finish at the U.S. Open and I’ve come off a good weekend at Travelers. I think the biggest thing for me was to try and make sure that I’m well rested. Obviously this was a big stretch for me, straight out of the gates playing four in a row, playing Greenbrier next week.
“To manage just the energy levels is huge. You’d think walking around a golf course should be easy, right? It’s so mentally high and low and physically high and low.
The expectations are pretty high right now, so I’ve been putting in the hard work and doing the right thing, so hopefully I can contend this week, would be nice."
Justin Rose has won this event previously but not at this golf course but he is in fine form having finished 12th at the US Open, 4th at the Players and 5th at the Wells Fargo event. His record over Congressional might not be as good as some others but there is little doubting the form he is in.
Jordan Spieth was 6th last year and he is a clearly much better and more experienced player now. He continues to put together solid tournaments and it is hard to imagine he is not going to be in the mix on Sunday.
Other Australians in the field include Marc Leishman, Stuart Appleby, Geoff Ogilvy, Robert Allenby, Greg Chalmers, Steven Bowditch and the opposing semi finalists at last year’s US Amateur Oliver Goss and Brady Watt.
Goss played his first event as a professional last week in Hartford and while he missed the cut he did not disgrace himself. He is a great talent and this is a fine golf course so it would be no surprise if he was to make the cut this week especially given that he did so at the Masters.
Watt made the cut earlier in the season when playing the Puerto Rico Open. Both he and Goss fought out a playoff the PGA Tour of Australasia’s West Australian Open in 2012 before Goss took the title.