New US PGA Tour season tees off without Woods
PHIL MICKELSON, energized by America’s Ryder Cup triumph, was raring to go yesterday in Napa, California, where the US PGA Tour season tees off with the Safeway Open.
“Well, after five solid days off it’s exciting to start the year,” the five-time major champion said in a jokey jab at the quick turnaround from the Ryder Cup to the opening event on the 2016-17 calendar.
Little more than a fortnight ago, Rory McIlroy capped the 2015-16 season with a scintillating victory in the US PGA Tour Championship – nabbing the US$10 million FedEx Cup playoff bonus into the bargain.
Many of golf’s elite who battled in the playoffs and Ryder Cup will skip the first low-key events of the new season, and this week’s tournament will have its customary laid-back feel now that 14-time major champion Tiger Woods has delayed his return from an injury absence lasting more than a year.
“We all want Tiger to come back, but we want him to come back when he’s ready,” Mickelson (pix) said. “If he doesn’t feel like he’s ready, then he should wait.
“We’ll all wait in anticipation and we’re excited, but I understand there’s a lot of pressure not just to come back but to perform when he does come back.”
But plenty of top golfers who battled through 2016 season find themselves in recovery mode in the waning months of the year.
World No. 1 Jason Day of Australia, forced out of the Tour Championship and the BMW Championship before that with a back injury, has pulled out of next month’s Australian Open and the World Cup of Golf, and indicated he might not compete until 2017.
Day won three US PGA Tour titles in 2015-16. But Player of the Year honors went to American Dustin Johnson, whose three titles included his breakthrough major at the US Open.
Johnson is planning to make his season debut at the WGC HSBC Champions in Shanghai later this month, then play the elite Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in January.
“Obviously my expectations going into next year are going to be very high, and that’s going to drive me to keep continuing to work hard and keep doing exactly what I’m doing because it’s working,” Johnson said on a conference call to discuss his Player of the Year award.
So with players like Day, Johnson, third-ranked McIlroy and fourth-ranked Jordan Spieth waiting in the wings, England’s world No. 12 Paul Casey is the highest-ranked player in this week’s field. – AFP