July 28, 2015

Tiger plays host at Quicken Loans National

Tiger Woods will be busy this week as he plays in and hosts the $6.7 million Quicken Loans National at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia. 

Not only looking to bounce back from missing the cut two weeks ago at the Open Championship in St. Andrews, Woods will be mingling with corporate sponsors and guests and making sure the event runs smoothly. 

This marks the ninth year the Tiger Woods Foundation has overseen the tournament. TWF is the primary beneficiary of the event, which has raised nearly $22 million since its inception in 2007. 

As always, one of the focal points of the event is the military. During his pre-tournament media conference Tuesday, Tiger said he expects free admission to be provided to about 30,000 members of the armed services and their families. 

“It’s very important to us that the military gets recognized this week for all the service they do for this country, domestic and abroad,” he said. “We wouldn’t have the freedom we have if it wasn’t for them.”
After shooting 76-75 at the Old Course, Woods said he went to the Bahamas with his two children to scuba dive and snorkel, and didn’t touch a club for a week. He played 14 holes and practiced Monday at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, then played an 18-hole practice round Tuesday with good friend Arjun Atwal. 

“I feel pretty good now,” Tiger said. 

Not that this year hasn’t been challenging. Finally pain free after back surgery last year and still fine-tuning a major swing overhaul, Woods has made only four of eight cuts, with his best finish a tie for 17th at the Masters Tournament. Usually one of his strong-suits, he ranks last on the PGA TOUR in scrambling. 

“I didn’t think it would take this long because I thought I would have my short game earlier,” Tiger said. “You can cover up a lot of things when you are chipping and putting well. I didn’t have it at the beginning of the year, hence I had to spend more time hitting golf balls than chipping and putting. So, that process of scoring has taken a lot longer.” 

Tiger is convinced he is on the right track. 

“I’m sticking with the process and just trying to make progress each day,” he said. “The neat thing is I’ve done it before. Unfortunately, sometimes I have to get a little worse before I make giant strides forward to get better. Has it been fun going through this? No, it hasn’t. I’m just not scoring.” 

Woods said the most frustrating part is that instead of turning 74s into 70s, he’s shooting 75 or 76. 

“I know how close it feels,” Tiger said. “I just need a couple shots here and there, and it turns the tide. Every time I’ve had those opportunities, I haven’t capitalized. Obviously, I’ve got to clean up my rounds and convert the opportunities I have.” 

Caddie Joe LaCava keeps telling Tiger that he hasn’t competed much the last two years and to “relax” on the golf course. LaCava has also reminded Woods that in 2013, he won five times and was selected PGA TOUR Player of the Year. 

“Hopefully, I can start playing the way I know I can and start getting some Ws again,” Tiger said. 

Although this is the first year the tournament has been played at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, the course has been the site of Presidents Cup matches in 1994, 1996, 2000 and 2005. Tiger played in the latter two, posting an overall record of 5-4-1. 

“It’s a bigger course than I remember in 2005,” Woods said of the 7,385-yard, par-71 layout. “It’s going to be a heckuva test this week.” 

Tiger said the greens are quick and the ball is carrying due to the hot temperatures, which are expected to continue all week. 

“The ball is flying forever,” he said. 

Woods has won the Quickens Loans National twice — both at Congressional Country Club — in 2009 and 2012. He missed the cut at Congressional last year in his first start since undergoing microdisectomy surgery March 31 for a pinched nerve in his back. 

Defending champion Justin Rose of England heads the 120-player field that has combined for 13 PGA TOUR victories this season. Ranked No. 5 in the world, he also won the tournament in 2010 and captured the 2013 U.S. Open. 

Sixth-ranked Rickie Fowler, winner of The PLAYERS Championship earlier this year, is also competing, along with Jimmy Walker, twice a winner in 2015. 

Tiger begins first-round play Thursday at 12:55 p.m. ET on the first tee with 2013 winner Bill Haas and 2011 winner Nick Watney. They are scheduled to start their second round Friday at 8:10 a.m. ET on the 10th tee.