After walking off of the course in the final round of the Honda Classic last Sunday, Tiger Woods is back in the field this week in the WGC Cadillac Championship at Doral. Woods withdrew on the 13th hole at Palm Beach Gardens, FL and spent Monday and Tuesday getting intense treatments for his lower back. Because of a rain delay most of the players, including Woods, were still on the course when play was suspended because of darkness in the first round on Thursday. Woods was able to get in only 10 holes, making 2 bogeys and the rest pars to stand at 2-over. Playing along with Tiger, Adam Scott birdied the 8th and 9th holes and is in a tie for 2nd at minus-2.
When play was halted at the end of the day five golfers shared the lead at 3-under. Only one of them, Harris English, had a chance to finish his round. English had a 69 over the par-72 Trump National Doral golf course. Jason Dufner, who at one time led the tournament at 5-under, had two bogeys and still has 2 holes to play. The others at minus-3 are Hunter Mahan after 14 holes, Francesco Molinari after 13 and Patrick Reed after 11.
Phil Mickelson, No. 5 in the world rankings, had his usual assortment of scores, carding 8 pars, 3 bogeys and 3 birdies to stand at even-par through 14 holes. Playing in Phil’s group is Rory McIlroy who seemed to have a ticket on the same roller coaster. The Irishman had 5 birdies and 4 pars for a score of 1-under with 4 holes to play. The third player in that group was supposed to be Accenture Match Play champion Jason Day, but he withdrew unexpectedly Thursday because of a thumb injury. Day, ranked fourth in the world, said the thumb had been bothering him since the Match Play Championship two weeks ago and is still causing him pain this week. He said an MRI was negative and he planned to give the thumb a few more weeks to heal. Because the withdrawal came too late, Mickelson and McIlroy will play the first round without a third player in the group.
Woods says he’s ready, but that the pain in his back still “comes and goes.” This week’s tournament is important to him for 2 reasons. First, he is the defending champion in the event. Perhaps more importantly, he is in danger of losing his No. 1 world ranking. Australian Scott is currently 2nd in the rankings and would move up to No. 1 with a win and a 6th place finish, or lower, for Tiger.
Tiger’s return to action this week to defend his title will be a challenge, to say the least. Because of his back treatments, he has not been able to take a full swing since his withdrawal last weekend. That means that he has had no chance for any practice rounds at this week’s course, nicknamed “The Blue Monster,” which has undergone several renovations in the past year. Before today’s first round, all Tiger could do was make a visual assessment of several new water hazards, tees, bunkers and green positions.
By Chuck Podhaisky