17 The Daily Telegraph Monday 20 July 2020 ** Woods opts to miss warm-ups and go straight to USPGA golf correspondent By James Corrigan ago. Fleetwood, 29, has quarantined with friends in Long Island for the last two weeks and, under US rules, has been allowed to play golf in this period. Fleetwood has played a number of rounds at Shinnecock Hills, the revered New York course where he came so close to history two years ago when almost shooting the first ever 62 in the US Open on his way to finishing second behind Brooks Koepka. If the immigration regulations remain the same, then Fleetwood will spend the next nine weeks in Stateside as he takes in not only the USPGA but also the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup play-offs and the US Open in September. Fleetwood flew from New York Tiger suffering with his back and struggled at the Memorial Fleetwood returns to action for first time since lockdown Will we see Tiger Woods again before the first major of the season – the USPGA – in three weeks? The 15-time major winner plainly does not yet know yet, and after his comeback tournament there seems no obvious answer. Woods shot a 76 in the final round of the Memorial at Muirfield Village and although that does not sound at all impressive, it was about par on a day when the PGA Tour organisers seemingly wished for US Open conditions. On six-over, the 44-year-old finished well down the leaderboard but it must be remembered that this was his first tournament in more than five months. “Well, I competed and played again. It’s been a while,” Woods said. “It was nice to get my feet wet and compete and play again. Tough, tough conditions to start out my first week back, Thursday and Sunday. But it was good to get the feel and the flow of competing again.” There are two tournaments left until the USPGA and the question is if Woods will appear at the WGC FedEx St Jude Invitational in Memphis the week before the major at Harding Park. “Competitive reps or reps?” he said when the query was posed. He seemed unsure. And that can only be expected because this was just his third event of 2020 and we are in July. Granted, the pandemic hiatus has been largely to blame, but Wood was pulling out of events with his sore back before the coronavirus lockdown. With his continuing ailments, the odds are on him skipping Memphis and going straight to San Francisco. “I think I need to work on my putting a bit and clean that up,” Woods said. “But as far as my swing, it felt good. I was able to hit good shots. Friday was a bit off physically, but overall for my first week back, it was a lot, a lot of positives.” We know one thing and that is he will not play at the 3M Open that begins on Thursday. However, Tommy Fleetwood will be there in Minneapolis, as the top-ranked Englishman plays his first tournament in more than four months. Despite Rory McIlroy’s declaration last month that if players “really cared about their career and wanted to advance” they would have travelled over from Europe for the PGA Tour’s early events in the restart, Fleetwood understandably took the cautious approach and delayed his own resumption before flying across the pond a fortnight to Minneapolis yesterday, just as the Memorial tournament was reaching its finale. It is fair to say that in the blistering temperatures, with the winds swirling and the conditions firming up by the minute, only those in contention would have enjoyed the experience. With the course’s famous greens set to be torn up today as part of an overhaul, it was no surprise to see them running at somewhere approaching maximum speed and naturally this led to some unusual scenes. The most unusual came on the 460-yard 13th where Phil Mickelson hit a 364 drive into the middle of the fairway – and then elected to play his 78-yard approach with a putter. His effort came up short. 20 minutes, allowing their number one driver to take the start. Verstappen repaid their heroics by making up four places before the opening bend, and then holding off Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas to finish second behind Lewis Hamilton. “I thought the race was over before it had even started so to be second is like a victory,” said the 22-year-old, who moved up to third in the championship with his best result of the season. “This podium is definitely dedicated to my mechanics. They did an amazing job to fix the car. “I don’t think anyone could actually believe they managed it but they all stayed very calm so I am very pleased to pay them back with second. I don’t know how they did it. It was incredible. Everything was working as normal. “We just kept doing our own thing and of course splitting the Mercedes is good for us. “I braked, locked a wheel, came off the brakes and tried to brake again but went straight on into the wall. “I couldn’t believe it, but I managed to reverse out of the wall and get to the grid. “After I hit the wall I thought that was it. To get out there, we had a really good start, and to come home in second was like a victory for us. I definitely didn’t expect to be second today.” Red Bull principal Christian Horner said: “Max redeemed himself. We made a late call after he managed to reverse it out [of the barriers] to say drive it to the grid. “He was going to come into the pits because he thought it was all over but we could see from the TV that it was mainly the push-rod and the track-rod. “All the boys have done an amazing job today to get that turned around in 20 minutes, it’s something that would usually get done in an hour and a half.”
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