Archive for Monday, February 16, 2009

Get ready, PGA: Tiger’s almost back

February 16, 2009

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— The scouting report on Tiger Woods is discouraging.

That’s if you’re a fellow PGA Tour pro.

If you’re faced with trying to beat him when he comes back from eight months off after reconstructive knee surgery, which might be within the next three weeks, the news is quite troubling.

But if you’re a Woods fan, the news couldn’t be much more encouraging.

That was the word from two of Woods’ golf pals who teed it up Sunday in the final round of the Allianz Championship at The Old Course at Broken Sound.

“Tiger’s going at it full go, full shots, full drivers,” said John Cook, who played with Woods on three consecutive days at Isleworth Country Club in suburban Orlando last week. “That includes one of those, ‘I’m going to hit this one as hard as I can hit it,’ one of those, ‘I’m going to drive it onto the 16th green at Doral’ swings.”

Cook said Woods uncorked one of those monster swings with a driver last week that made Cook wonder if Woods was risking re-injury.

“I’m like, ‘Are you OK?,’” Cook said. “He says, ‘I’m fine, never better.’”

Cook, an 11-time PGA Tour winner who lives in the same Windermere community as Woods, is proud and excited about the hard work his friend is doing rehabilitating from the knee injury.

Woods has not played a tournament since he won the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines last June on a left leg plagued with a ruptured anterior cruciate knee ligament and fractured tibia.

“Physically, Tiger works so hard, and he’s as strong as you’ve ever seen him,” Cook said. “Now it’s getting into walking shape. He said the only thing he’s anxious about is getting out and doing it for 72 holes.”

Cook said he and Woods played on three consecutive days at Isleworth last week, playing 18 holes one day, hitting balls the next and playing a few holes the third day. They rode in carts.

When is Woods coming back?

“He’s on schedule, my guess is probably sometime in March, but I don’t know,” Cook said. “I didn’t think it was my business to ask him, and he would have told me if he wanted me to know.”

The three most likely sites for a return are the Accenture Match Play Championship (Feb. 25-March 1), the CA Championship at Doral (March 12-15) and the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill (March 26-29).

With Woods’ wife, Elin, giving birth to their second child, Charlie Axel, on Feb. 8, Woods is freer to return when he feels ready.

Cook said Woods’ swing with a driver looks tighter and should give him more control in the future.

For another perspective, Mark O’Meara, the 16-time PGA Tour winner and another long-time friend to Woods, said that he believed Woods was also re-charged mentally.

“I think the break is the best thing that could have happened to him,” O’Meara said. “It gave him eight months away from the game, a chance to connect with his daughter Sam and see the birth of his son.

“He handles the press just great, but being out of the public eye might not be a bad thing for him. He’s hungry. I think he will come back better than ever.”

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