Tiger Woods returned to PGA Tour competition at the 2014 Quicken Loans National beginning on Thursday at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland. Much of the attention would be focused on the game's biggest star, who also serves as tournament host, along with the prodigies playing with him in Jordan Spieth and Jason Day.
Woods hadn't played since the WGC-Cadillac Championship in early March and missed the Masters and U.S. Open while recovering from back surgery for a pinched nerve. The golf world was no doubt happy to welcome Woods back to the links this week.
In terms of who was contending at Congressional after Round 1, though, neither Woods nor his talented playing competitors were in the early running. Both Woods and Spieth shot three-over 74 in the first round, while Day managed just one stroke better to start the tournament.
Read on for daily updates and highlights from the site of Woods' highly anticipated return, where an elite field figures to offer an exciting weekend finish.
Round 4 Recap
Justin Rose nearly let it slip away at the end, but he held on throughout a playoff with Shawn Stefani to win the 2014 Quicken Loans National.
Here's a look at the final leaderboard from the tournament:
|Position||Golfer||Total||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||Total|
|T8||Billy Hurley III||-1||69||73||70||71||283|
|T8||Brendon de Jonge||-1||71||68||71||73||283|
Although both were three shots out of the lead entering Sunday's final round, Rose and Stefani were tied at the top of the leaderboard after 18 holes off their one-under rounds of 70. That pushed things to a playoff to decide who would lift the trophy.
In the playoff hole, Stefani pulled his tee shot far to the left and ended up chipping from 15 feet out to try and save par. He couldn't, and meanwhile Rose tapped in a par putt to win.
Before that, though, Rose nearly gave it up altogether. On the 18th and final hole, Rose teed off into the trees before nearly hitting water.
Spectacularly, he saved it with a long bogey putt to force overtime:
The win was just another big victory for Rose's career. The 33-year-old now has 15 career professional tour victories—six on the PGA Tour—along with his 2013 U.S. Open.
Tiger Woods, who missed the cut over the weekend in his return, congratulated Rose:
Tournament victories throughout the dog days of summer can prove to be so rewarding for top golfers who are struggling to find their game. Perhaps winning against a crowded field of PGA Tour golfers will help to revitalize Rose heading into the year's final two majors.
Not to be lost in the commotion of Rose's win is Stefani's performance. The 32-year-old notched the best finish of his career with the result, despite coming up short.
On top of that, Stefani qualified for the British Open with his play:
Whether it was Rose, Stefani or any of the other golfers that took to Congressional over the weekend, the Quicken Loans National entertained with top golf throughout all four rounds. There were seemingly dozens of golfers in contention throughout much of the four rounds.
With the 2014 British Open just under three weeks away now, many of the top names will set their sights toward the year's third major.
Round 3 Recap
The leaderboard at Congressional got a significant face lift on Saturday as the world's best golfers—sans one Mr. Woods—took to the course for Round 3 of the 2014 Quicken Loans National.
Gone are rising stars like Oliver Goss for now, and sitting pretty atop the Day 3 leaderboard is one Patrick Reed:
|Position||Golfer||Total||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Total|
|T5||Richard H. Lee||-3||74||68||68||210|
|T5||Brendon de Jonge||-3||71||68||71||210|
The sudden rise and fall of familiar and unknown names through three rounds this weekend is, well, par for the course. Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post helps to explain:
In golf, the gap between the 10 best players in the world and the 100th best is 1.52 strokes a round — or just six shots per tournament. Four days seems like a lot of golf, but in reality, it is just a small enough data sample to allow a huge range of players to win. To win Wimbledon over two weeks of matches, there are so many shots that talent almost inevitably prevails. Golf, with 72 holes of play, can be the opposite — similar to an “underdetermined system” in mathematics that can have no solution or an infinite number of solutions.
So it should come as no surprise that Reed sits atop the leaderboard. His effort on Day 3 was highlighted by three birdies, and it's important to note that the tournament is now his to lose by a big margin—he's a bit of an emerging star considering all three of his PGA Tour wins have come in the past 11 months.
As Justin Ray of the Golf Channel notes, Reed is set to join some illustrious names if he can hang on for the win:
Worth repeating: Patrick Reed seeking 4th win at age 23. Since '60, only players to do that on @PGATOUR are Jack, Phil, Tiger and Rory.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) June 28, 2014
But Ray also notes that another challenger just a few shots back seems in a position to make the comeback Sunday:
Justin Rose, who made all 17 of his putts 10 feet and in today, starts Sunday 3 back. 3 of his 5 @PGATOUR W's he was 2+ back ent. Sunday— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) June 28, 2014
If Rose can come anywhere near his Round 2 score of 65 and keep the trends alive, he'll surely be in the hunt.
It's also very important to note the efforts of Seung-Yul Noh, who has aged like fine wine in the matter of days. He has carded scores of 73, 70 and 66 the first three days, with the last number being the best mark posted by any golfer on Saturday. The positive momentum suggests he is getting comfortable with the course.
Another notable was youngster Oliver Goss, although his day on Saturday was one to forget. After a stunning first two rounds, he went out and carded a 76 to drop 14 spots and rest five shots out of first place.
Based on how fragile the lead has been through three days, expect nothing but a classic finish on Sunday—Woods or not.
Round 2 Recap
75 players will move on to Round 3 of the Quicken Loans National, but tournament host Tiger Woods will not be one of them. Woods shot a 75 on Friday to finish at four-over after two rounds; the cut for the tournament was set at plus-three.
Marc Leishman, Oliver Goss, Patrick Reed and Ricky Barnes are all tied for the lead at six under.
Here is a quick look at the leaderboard after two days of golf in Bethesda, Maryland.
|Position||Golfer||Total||Round 1||Round 2||Total|
Woods wasn't much of a threat after shooting a 74 on Round 1, but few could have predicted his play would be even worse in Round 2.
Golf analysts were careful not to draw any long-term conclusions from his play. GolfChannel's Jason Soble likened it to a minor-league rehab start for a baseball player:
Hey, sometimes all-stars go 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in a rehab start. Physical condition more important than performance.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) June 27, 2014
While CBS Sports' Kyle Porter noted during Woods' press conference that he had yet to offer up much analysis about the mistakes he made.
Did Tiger make any little mistakes? He hasn't mentioned it yet..— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) June 27, 2014
If golf needs to find new stars, they can look to Gross' performance for encouragement. The 20-year-old Australian prodigy shot a second round 66 to rocket up the leaderboard; he didn't bogey a single hole and finished strong with three birdies on his final eight holes.
The PGA Tour provided an interview with Gross following his astonishing performance:
Fellow Aussie Leishman was also a model of consistency in Round 2. After notching three bogeys in Round 1, Leishman was the epitome of calm and composure on Friday. He didn't hit a single bogey and pocketed five birdies spread throughout the day.
Which current leader has the best chance at winning the Quicken Loans National?
Justin Rose was also a big winner from Round 2. He shot an amazing second round 65 to finish at three under. Rose is coming off a solid 12th place performance at the U.S. Open and is one of the biggest names with a strong chance at first place.
Day 1 leader Greg Chalmers absolutely imploded on Day 2; he shot an abysmal 78 and went from the top of the heap to just barely making the cut at two over. Chalmers will surely be disappointed by his play, as he is likely to miss out on winning his first ever PGA Tour event.
Woods' performance was certainly disappointing, as he was clearly looking to get as much golf as possible under his belt while he works towards top form following a long layoff due to back surgery. His exit from the tournament combined with some relative unknowns at the top of the leaderboard could turn off fans from this tournament, leaving golf in a state of limbo until the Open Championship in July.
Round 1 Recap
Greg Chalmers leads through the first 18 holes thanks to a stellar round of 66 to get to five under par. The lefty began on the back nine with a birdie at the par-three 10th, which suggested he'd be in for an excellent day.
Three straight birdies to close out his round saw Chalmers edge ahead of Ricky Barnes and Freddie Jacobson. Barnes had posted 67 in the morning wave, and Jacobson eventually matched him on that number to move into a tie for second.
Here is a look at the leaderboard after the opening round:
|T4||Tyrone Van Aswegen||68||-3|
Full leaderboard available at PGATour.com
A fascinating group lurks at three under. Brash young American Patrick Reed is among those who shot 68 Thursday, prompting Jason Sobel of Golf Channel to tweet the following:
Patrick Reed is in second place after 3-under 68. Annnddd... obligatory top-five joke.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) June 26, 2014
Also posting 68s were defending Quicken Loans National champion Bill Haas and recent U.S. Open runner-up Erik Compton.
But of course, the story will be Woods, who failed to get up and down seven of eight times en route to a 74.
Think there's no @TigerWoods effect? I have six interviews with radio stations across US tomorrow to talk some guy named Tiger.— Steve DiMeglio (@Steve_DiMeglio) June 26, 2014
Woods was able to find the fairway rather often (9-of-14 in regulation), but ever so slightly misjudged distances. He needed to trust his sight lines a little more in the competitive setting to score better.
What was most obviously out of sync was Woods' short game, as he had some uncharacteristic lapses around the greens that led to bogeys. All things considered, though, Woods' return to the course was rather successful.
Congressional isn't exactly a cakewalk venue, but it makes sense that Woods would embrace such a challenge to see how his back held up—along with his course management.
With regard to his health, so far so good, per Golf Central:
“Back is great. I had no issues at all... I feel fantastic” – Tiger Woods pic.twitter.com/DOzf3CJ7a5— Golf Central (@GolfCentral) June 26, 2014
Justin Ray of Golf Channel noted how Woods began to heat up toward the end:
Tiger Woods today: 1st 12 holes he hit just 1 approach inside 10 feet. Over last 6 holes, hit 3 inside FOUR feet.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) June 26, 2014
If Tiger Woods misses the cut, will you tune in for the rest of the Quicken Loans National?
That all bodes well for Woods entering Round 2, where he has some ground to make up but will be aided by difficult course conditions. Presuming he can regain his touch on pitches and chips and improves upon the 10 greens in regulation he hit Thursday, there's no reason Woods should be outside the weekend cut.
The early going of this tournament also highlights how important any given week on the PGA Tour can be. Chalmers is 40 but has never won on tour. Barnes is in the same boat as a former prodigy who never quite lived up to the hype and is still seeking his maiden victory at 33. Both are ranked in the 120s in FedEx Cup points, putting them on the bubble for the playoffs.
Hopefully Woods can battle back and showcase his trademark resolve to get back into the hunt on Friday. Perhaps he, Day and Spieth can all provide mutual benefits to each other by playing better and thus increasing the attention surrounding the Quicken Loans National.
Golf is in need of a big boost amid the lag between now and the Open Championship starting July 17. Woods has the magnetism to provide that—provided he plays all four rounds in Bethesda.
Note: Statistics are courtesy of PGATour.com.