Tiger Woods registered for the U.S. Open, which was more procedure than pronouncement. Three weeks later, he played five holes during the official opening of the golf course he designed outside Houston. The next step is returning to competition, for which the timeframe remains unknown.
Monday was the first time he had played any golf holes since the Wyndham Championship in August, he said, contrary to speculation that he had played at The Medalist near his home in South Florida. He described those five holes at Bluejack National as “nice and smooth.”
“That’s harder than I have been going at it the last month,” Woods told reporters for Global Golf Post and ESPN. “Just gradually progressing. We’re just trying to progress, and I’m doing that.”
As for the return? Woods said he hasn’t set a date, which he described as frustrating. Then again, he said, he never would have thought he would be this far along five months ago at his tournament in the Bahamas, where he was in pain from two back surgeries.
Woods had to register for the U.S. Open at Oakmont (June 16-19) by the deadline Wednesday.
He offered mixed signals to reporters on when he might play again.
Woods said he has to get stronger and faster and that “I’m not hitting it very far right now.” He said he was able to hit the ball as far as he is now without too much effort, and that he’s trying to work on new drivers.
“I know I need to hit a bunch of drivers. But I can’t hit a bunch of drivers,” he said. “I’m trying to figure that out.”
Then again, he said he eventually has to get back to a competitive environment, where he has to be patient and “plod my way along.”
“I can play a lot more at home and get my playing sense back, but tournament golf is so much different,” he said. “And I’ll have to make those adjustments. And the only way to make those adjustments is to get out there in the heat and feel it.”
NOW ON THE TEE: It took two starters to replace Ivor Robson at golf’s oldest championship.
The R&A said Tuesday it has appointed David Lancaster and Matt Corker to announce players on the first tee at the British Open this summer at Royal Troon. Lancaster served as a lieutenant commander in the Royal Navy and now is a corporate consultant on giving presentations. Corker was superintendent of the Royal Hong Kong police and now works at Lancaster’s company.
They replace Robson, who had been the official starter at the British Open for more than 40 years until he retired after St. Andrews. Robson never left the tee from 6:30 a.m. until the final group was announced some 10 hours later.
Lancaster will be the primary starter, and Corker will relieve him.
TIME FOR SPIETH: Jordan Spieth is the latest golfer to make Time magazine’s list of “100 Most Influential People.” The 22-year-old Texan was listed under the “Icons” section, and his submission was written by Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
“Enjoy watching this kid grow up,” Romo wrote for the magazine. “He will fail and he will succeed, but more than anything, he will make you remember what our heroes are meant to look like. On an off the field.”
Other golfers to make it on Time’s list are Woods (2004 and 2009), Michelle Wie (2006), Phil Mickelson (2010) and Lydia Ko (2014).
TENTED VILLAGE: The British Open has given true meaning to the term “tented village.” And it’s not the main concession area.
In an effort to attract young spectators, the R&A will set up the “Open Camping Village” a short walk from Royal Troon. It will feature two-, four- and six-person tents with inflatable beds for spectators 25 and under at no cost. The village also will feature shower facilities, free parking, security and options for food and drink.
“The Open is a wonderful opportunity for young fans to get up close to their favorite players, and we know this will help inspire future generations to pick up a club and take part themselves,” said Johnnie Cole-Hamilton, the R&A’s executive director of championships. “Our aim is make The Open as accessible as possible.”
Children under 16 must be accompanied by at least one adult (and no more than two adults).
The Open already has deep discounts for fans between 16 and 21 — 25 pounds ($36) for tournament rounds — and this is the 20th year in which children under 16 get in free when accompanied by an adult.
THE FINISH: Charley Hoffman made a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win the Valero Texas Open and end a streak that had been bothering him.
He closed with a 69, the first time he had broken 70 in the final round of a tournament since a 67 in the Deutsche Bank Championship more than seven months ago. He went 10 final rounds over 13 tournaments without a score in the 60s, averaging 73.8. That included an 80 at wind-swept Torrey Pines.
More than a streak, however, was playing the final round with a chance and getting it done.
“Not doing it hurts,” Hoffman said. “That why I play this game is to get in that contention. I love the way your body feels when you’re in contention. Just the way you react and sort of be able to maintain composure. I haven’t been able to. It’s been tough. To be able to go through that period in the last month and a half and close the door like I did, it’s a very good, gratifying feeling.”
THE START: Abraham Ancer has never been on the fast track anywhere, and that includes his rookie year on the PGA Tour.
Ancer, born in Texas with dual citizenship in the U.S. and Mexico, did just well enough as a teenager to play golf at Odessa Junior College. He did well enough his last year to get a scholarship to Oklahoma. And he did well enough on the Web.com Tour to earn his PGA Tour card.
But it’s been a slow process. Ancer missed the cut in his last six events on the Web.com Tour, including all four in the Web.com Tour Finals. He then missed the cut in his first eight PGA Tour starts, falling so low in the priority ranking that he returned to the Web.com Tour and tie for 14th in Louisiana.
After one more missed cut in Puerto Rico, Ancer finally made it to the weekend on the PGA Tour at the Valero Texas Open. He tied for 42nd. It’s a step.
DIVOTS: Woody Austin leads the PGA Tour Champions money list with $770,080 in six tournaments. That’s the most money he has made in a single year since 2009, when he earned just over $1.37 million in 24 starts on the PGA Tour. … The Fiji International, which Matt Kuchar won last year, will be part of the European Tour and PGA Tour of Australasia this year. It will be played Oct. 6-9 at Natadola Bay Championship Golf Course. That’s the same week as the Dunhill Links in Scotland. … Dustin Johnson has signed up for a partnership with sports drink Body Armor. Johnson will appear in advertising campaigns, social media and appear at local events to generate awareness. He joins a list of athlete investors that include Andrew Luck, Mike Trout and James Harden. … The Scottish Open will move next year to Dundonald Links, located on the Ayrshire Coast. It is at Castle Stuart near Inverness this year.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Jason Day is the first No. 1 player in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans since David Duval in 1999.
FINAL WORD: “The only two things that I think about in life is my family and golf. And that’s all I want to think about.” — Jason Day.