Golf

DEREK LAWRENSON: Tiger is back on the prowl at the US PGA Championship

DEREK LAWRENSON: Tiger is back on the prowl at the US PGA despite his ‘terrible’ right leg after the Masters, while Jordan Spieth is showing the form needed to complete his career Grand Slam

  • Tiger Woods played nine holes at Southern Hills on Sunday ahead of the US PGA
  • Bryson DeChambeau also looks set to return after his recent hand operation
  • Jordan Spieth arrives in Oklahoma looking to complete the career Grand Slam
  • Brit Paul Casey withdrew from this week’s major with an ongoing back problem 

Tiger Woods played nine holes at Southern Hills in the late afternoon shadows on Sunday and looked ready to contend this week for the 104th US PGA Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Bryson DeChambeau turned up on Monday, well ahead of schedule following his recent hand operation. And Jordan Spieth rolled into town, showing the form of a man who just might become only the second golfer since 1966 — no prizes for guessing the first — to complete the career Grand Slam.

Did somebody proclaim, ‘Thank God for the majors’? After all the Saudi rubbish and the threat of yet more inconsequential tournaments that can safely be filed under ‘who cares?’, at least we can rely on the four big ones to provide storylines that are genuinely intriguing, and golf that actually matters.

Tiger Woods played nine holes at Southern Hills on Sunday ahead of the PGA Championship

Bryson DeChambeau is also set to return this week following his recent hand operation

Following the considerable excitement of his Masters miracle, all eyes will be trained on Tiger once again on Thursday to see if he can move the needle from everyone being thrilled simply to see him upright with a golf club in his hand to being a contender once more.

Clearly stronger than at Augusta, Woods was making all the right noises after speaking briefly to half a dozen reporters on the ground.

‘The day after the Masters my right leg was terrible, I couldn’t do anything, but we went right back after it on Tuesday,’ he said. ‘It feels a lot better now and the more I use it the more strength it gains.’

The five-time champion revealed his right leg was ‘terrible’ after his Masters comeback

Woods had a playful gripe about the extra 500 yards the course has gained since he won at Southern Hills in 2007, when he shot 63 in the second round, his lowest score in a major. The 46-year-old then rather undermined any suggestion the extra length could be a problem by piping a drive down the second hole.

‘He’s swinging a lot freer than he was at Augusta,’ reported his loyal caddie, Joe LaCava. ‘Southern Hills is no picnic to walk around, but the fact it’s got nothing like the inclines at Augusta is going to help a lot.’

The return of DeChambeau so soon after all the problems with his left hand earlier in the year hardly registers on the Woods comeback scale, but his presence is welcome, nonetheless.

Let’s hope he’s also had that granite-sized chip on his shoulder removed that made him such a sullen participant at events earlier in the year.

Woods undermined any suggestion the extra length could be a problem at Southern Hills

DeChambeau has cut a somewhat sullen figure at tournaments earlier in the year

DeChambeau posted some video on social media showing him hitting drivers with a ball speed of 192mph, without any obvious discomfort.

He plans to use a couple of practice rounds over the next two days as an extended fitness test and will then make a final decision.

After Rory McIlroy went close to completing his own career Grand Slam with his runner-up finish at the Masters, Spieth will have his sixth attempt at rounding off the set with the one he’s missing from his collection.

It’s been a curious five weeks since Augusta, with most players taking the opportunity to get some rest before this hectic period coming up including three majors in nine weeks.

Of those who have played, nobody has shown more form than the Texan, who has finished first and second in his two starts.

Jordan Spieth  will have his sixth attempt to complete the career Grand Slam this week

‘I’ve got momentum and I feel right now that I can hit every shot,’ said Spieth, who has been working hard on some swing changes that appear to have come good.

Spieth won the week after the Masters despite putting poorly, but there were encouraging signs in that department with his runner-up finish in the AT&T Byron Nelson on Sunday.

The 28-year-old believes the Tulsa greens will also prove more to his liking. ‘I feel like my putting is now more outwardly-focused rather than stroke-focused and that’s important heading into a major,’ he said.

It has probably not hurt Spieth either in the motivation department that he is now not even the top dog in Dallas, following world No 1 Scottie Scheffler’s brilliant run of form.

This major has got a lot to live up to, following all the astonishing heroics last year from the absent defending champion Phil Mickelson.

We’re now 48 hours from Tulsa, and hopes are rising that it can deliver.

This year’s US PGA has a lot to live up to after Phil Mickelson’s triumphant victory in 2021

CASEY CAN’T CATCH A BREAK

Paul Casey has had more than his share of injuries over the years and now a back issue that is proving more problematic than first assumed has derailed his season at a decidedly inopportune time.

Eighteen months on from running Collin Morikawa so close at the PGA in San Francisco, the 44-year-old Englishman had to withdraw from this week’s edition on Monday with more of the same problems that caused him to pull out of the Masters at the last minute in April.

Casey was flying in March after an exciting duel with Cam Smith for the Players Championship that made him the Englishman most likely to end the majors drought this campaign.

Now he’s got his work cut out simply to be in any fit state to make it to the first tee for the two Opens that will take place in Boston and St Andrews in June and July respectively.

Paul Casey has withdrawn from the US PGA Championship due to an ongoing back injury

GOOD ON JACK FOR SNUBBING THE SAUDIS

Jack Nicklaus revealed on Monday that he rejected two offers of more than $100million to be the face of the Saudi golf tour.

‘I turned it down,’ said Nicklaus, the 18-time major winner. ‘Once verbally, once in writing. I said, “Guys, I have to stay with the PGA Tour. I helped start the PGA Tour”. Why would I not support that? 

‘Instead, I’m going to go support for my own benefit, see 40 guys break away from the PGA Tour at the whim of an advertising agency in Saudi Arabia? What happens to the other guys? I just don’t like it. I don’t think it’s right.’

Good for you, Jack.

Jack Nicklaus revealed he rejected two huge offers to be the face of the Saudi golf tour




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