Woods hosts Quicken Loans National; Fowler outlines expectations

Potomac, MD— Though he is currently frustrated with the state of his short game, Tiger Woods is wearing a very important hat this week, tournament host, which has resulted in a lot of smiles on his end.

Wednesday the PGA TOUR tweeted a brief video of Woods hugging with his old caddie Mike “Fluff” Cowan who is caddying for C.T. Pan this week. He also was shown on Kevin Na’s Instagram account smiling, laughing and truly enjoying his surroundings.

Now after some time away from Quicken Loans National, Tiger Woods is back in the field playing in his own event.

“It’s been frustrating not to compete and play and be part of this event,” he said. “I think that what we’ve created here over the years I think has been special. Our heroes tribute wall, we were the first ones to do it and now it’s one of the standards throughout the tour. Free admission to all military servicemen and women and their dependents, that’s something that became a standard on the PGA TOUR. We did a few things that I’m very proud of.”

Woods may call audible on his putter

As Billy Hurley III approached the putting green Wednesday he could not help but look at Woods’s golf bag and seemed amused by what he found.

“Well, Tiger had three putters on the putting green before I walked in here, so I don’t know if he’s officially chosen one or not,” he said.

Woods has experimented with a mallet-style putter after what he considered four consecutive tournament in which his putting was not up to standard.

For his part, Woods has not yet publicly committed to a putter for the week.

As is the case with many golfers, Rickie Fowler has been through club changes and believes if the feel and swing are right, then any kind of adjustment should not take much time.

“Really, for me, I would say it’s more so that adjustment doesn’t really happen until you’ve actually hit or used it in actual tournament play,” said Fowler. “You can get comfortable with it at home and through practice, but until you get kind of confirmation under the gun, it’s always nice when something does end up working out how you planned and expected it to. I mean, it’s definitely interesting. Tiger hasn’t really used a mallet a whole lot. I know he has before and I’m sure he’s hit putts with a bunch of different putters. He is one of the best putters in the game, one of the best putters we’ve ever seen. I think he’ll be just fine.”

Hurley III mentioned one of the three putters Woods had in the bag was his old Scotty Cameron which won several tournaments. The former established that an adjustment can take a period of time, or be an instant love connection. For his part, Hurley III won the 2016 Quicken Loans National three or four weeks after making a change with his putter.

“Sometimes just changing it up a little bit, all of a sudden you see balls start going in the hole and it’s great,” Hurley III said. “I think that there always is some adjustments you have to make and some lines that you’re not used to seeing that you now see or whatever. I think it varies so wildly. If you get the right thing, it can be just magic from first sight.”

For his part, Fowler has given Woods an A for how he has performed in this latest comeback and Woods realizes how fortunate he is to be playing golf again, let alone on the PGA TOUR.

“I will say that I am blessed, thankful and basically a gift to be able to play again,” he said. “At this particular time, as you know, I was not allowed to putt yet, I was not allowed to swing a club yet. My back was not fused and so there was no guarantee I would ever play golf. So to go from that to here, I didn’t foresee that happening, I really didn’t. To be able to build a golf swing around something that’s never been done before, no one’s had clubhead speeds as what I’ve had on the Tour this year with a lower back fusion. These are things that I didn’t know I could do and all of a sudden I’m doing it. I’m competing, I’m playing, and I’m having just a great time doing it.”

Still after missing the cut in Los Angeles at the Genesis Open, he made swing changes, making the cut at the Honda Classic. Then when he played the Valspar Championship, which is the one tournament he added to his schedule, he knew he had something going.

Now, his putting has held him back.

At the Memorial Tournament, his Strokes Gained: Putting let him down. Had he registered 0.000 in the statistic, he would have won the event.

After a hot two months with the putter, he is now back to the drawing boards and the frustrating part is that Woods is not completely sure how to fix it.

“We’ve had to just log in time and putt for hours to try to figure it out,” said Woods. “I hadn’t putted well for, what, about four tournaments now. I had a run at THE PLAYERS, but I made some putts that didn’t just quite feel right but they were going in. Other than that, I’ve struggled, and you saw me experimenting with Ardmore. I’m trying to find something that I can feel again like the swing of the putter, getting my body in the right positions and seeing the lines again. You know, it’s just one of those things, once I start to get that ball rolling on my lines, then I’ll be back to putting like I was. I just have not been rolling it on my lines. On top of that, when they don’t roll on lines, then I have a hard time seeing my line and it’s a vicious cycle and just trying to get out of that cycle.”

Woods has stated he put the time in with the Ardmore mallet putter, starting last week, and has more of a swing than his normal putter which he likes. It has been used as a training tool since Woods appreciates the putter toe and the feeling it provides before he would go back to his regular putter.

While Woods using a mallet putter is news, it has become common on TOUR with technological increases.

“I went to more technology when I was with Nike,” he said. “I went to faster, sharper grooves to get the ball rolling faster. So I’m trying a little bit more of that now with this Ardmore. It has grooves in it, it is rolling a little bit faster, but what I’ve tried to offset that is I’ve gone to a little bit more swing to it and so I have a little bit more feel so I don’t get away from my basic feel of my fingers and how I putt.”

Woods will need to have a big week in order to accomplish his goal of making the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational as it he will compete in this tournament and The Open Championship only. The Bridgestone Invitational only accepts the top-50 ranked players and Woods is currently 82nd in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I love Firestone, it’s one of the classic golf courses, it’s right in front of you,” Woods said. “There’s no tricks, it’s just right in front of you and it’s tough. We don’t get to play classic courses like that anymore and I’ve always enjoyed playing it, you can tell by the results I’ve had. I would like to get in there one more time. I know the Champions Tour is going there, so eight more years from now, I’ll be able to get a start and I don’t want to wait that long, just another month or so.”

Still despite this goal, Woods is being more mindful of the long game.

“I have to really try and remind myself that what I’m coming back from with this injury that I’ve had and the procedure that I’ve had,” said Woods. “I don’t want to play too much, but I need to play enough. I’ve got a game now that can play, so it’s a matter of pacing myself. Hopefully I can pace myself, get into the events and make sure I stay strong enough and fresh enough to play quite a few tournaments.”

Fowler hungry for major championship, Ryder Cup selection

Rickie Fowler possesses the best world ranking of any one in this Quicken Loans National field, but when it came time to assess his season, the 29-year-old Californian felt that there have been missed opportunities, but plenty more to be had this season.

“It was obviously nice to do what we did at the Masters,” Fowler said. “I was really looking forward to kind of taking advantage of that and building on that going into Shinnecock. Obviously I didn’t do myself any favors on Saturday. I feel like we’re obviously over that. I played nice the next day and I felt like we got some good work in. Last week, I was able to get a good day in with Claude (Harmon III) at the Floridian and very happy with where the game’s at going into this week. The next few months are kind of our busiest and the biggest part of the season outside of having majors, like I said, April, having THE PLAYERS in May, two majors left and going into the Playoffs with the Ryder Cup on the back end of that.

There still plenty of opportunities to achieve success this season with much of the remaining season jampacked with meaningful FedEx Cup points.

“That was kind of the main goal going into the year is go get ourselves a major,” said Fowler. “Augusta was a step in the right direction, I think more so just for the belief and confidence. It would have been nice to go redo the Saturday round at Shinney. I felt great going into there, a place that I love and enjoy playing.”

Fowler also believes that with the Open Championship on the horizon ball flight is more important than ever and currently, his shot is flying both tighter and stronger.

“I feel like when I am swinging well, I feel like I’ve always been very good at starting the ball in the right window and working the ball properly working with or against the wind,” he said. “It’s something I enjoy. I love links golf just because you can be so creative, use your creativity, hit different shots. There are maybe five different shots that you could hit into a certain hole and all of them could work, just really picking the one that feels best and executing.”

In addition to winning a major this year, Fowler also has the goal of making another Ryder Cup team. Currently he places seventh on that list. With Fowler missing the French Open, which is being played on the same property as the Ryder Cup, he will rely on Justin Thomas for a scouting report.

“Right now the main focus is making sure that I am on the team and also would love not to have to
be a pick,” Fowler said. “I’ve been in that position and would rather just solidify our spot on the team through points. I feel like with where we’re at as professional golfers, we’ve had to go to hundreds of courses for the first time and learn them in a couple days and figure them out. I’ve heard it’s a fairly straightforward golf course, it’s just tough. I’m not sure if there’s any plans to go ahead of time. I think from here until after the Ryder Cup, I only have one-week breaks in between some events.”

19th hole

General Quicken Loans National Parking will be at the Rock Springs parking lot located at 6720 Rockledge Drive in Bethesda, MD 20817. It is $20 (cash only) per day and may be purchased upon parking… If you are taking an Uber, taxi or limousine to the tournament, the address 10051 Oaklyn Drive, Potomac, MD, 20854 must be entered as there is no drop-off or pick-up location at the TPC Potomac main entrance. A walking path will direct fans to the main entrance… All guests will be subject to inspection prior to entering the tournament. No backs larger than 6″x6″x6″ will be permitted.

Chris Pohl also contributed to this article

Author: Zac Weiss