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Tiger Woods likely to return to golf next week, Rosaforte says

By
Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange
American Tiger Woods stands in the rough on the 16th hole at the 144th Open Championship, St. Andrews, on July 18. could return to golf from injury within a week. File photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI
American Tiger Woods stands in the rough on the 16th hole at the 144th Open Championship, St. Andrews, on July 18. could return to golf from injury within a week. File photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo

--Tim Rosaforte of the Golf Channel, who has been chronicling Tiger Woods' recovery from three back surgeries, thinks he knows when the former world No. 1 might return to the PGA Tour.

Like maybe next week at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow. Woods has until 6 p.m. EDT on Friday to commit to the tournament.

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Rosaforte lives not far from Woods in South Florida, and his sources indicated recently that Tiger is getting close, but this is something else.

"Based on his progress, it makes sense @TigerWoods comes back sooner than later," Rosaforte wrote in a Twitter post. "Indications point to @WellsFargoGolf-@THEPLAYERSChamp return."

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Later in a phone interview on the Golf Channel, Rosaforte added: "Nothing has changed as of now. There could be a change of heart at any time. But by all indications with my reporting ... this is the logical choice, and this has a very good chance of happening."

Rosaforte added that Woods' agent Mark Steinberg said nothing has changed, for now.

Woods looked sharp, according to observers, when he hit balls at a junior clinic he put on at Sage Valley Golf Club in Graniteville, S.C., last week.

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"@tigerwoods carrying driver 300. I'm not saying he's back, but ... ," one witness tweeted, before adding, "@tiger woods hitting a 2 iron stinger 225. Full 2 irons 255. Swing looks great."

Woods missed the Masters earlier this month for the second time in three years, but if he can return early in May and proves to be healthy, he could tee it up in the Players and the last three majors of the season -- the U.S. Open at Oakmont, the Open Championship at Royal Troon and the PGA Championship at Baltusrol.

Tiger has played six times at Quail Hollow, winning the title in 2007, but missed the cut in his last two appearances in 2010 and 2012.

Notah Begay, a Golf Channel analyst and Woods' close friend since they were teammates at Stanford, probably has had the best vantage point on Tiger's recovery.

Begay stayed at Woods' home during the Honda Classic, he was in attendance at the junior clinic on Thursday, and the two communicate regularly.

"It's mostly the ball speed and the clubhead speed," said Begay, adding that Woods' ball speed is above 170 mph. "That's a gauge. Every player knows where they should be heading into the season. Everybody else's season started in the fall. We don't know when Tiger Woods' season is going to start, but the physical attributes you would look for are starting to materialize.

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"You have to play tournaments. You have to put in the reps on the range, probably 300-500 balls a day, and just have to play tournaments. The combination of walking, swinging slightly faster in tournaments, and the stress and all of the focus you need in a tournament week."

Woods, 40, has not played since the Wyndham Championship last August, when he posted his best finish of the year, a tie for 10th.

--Danny Willett of England, who won the Masters two weeks ago, has joined the PGA Tour.

By winning the first major of the year, the 28-year-old earned a five-year exemption on the circuit that runs through the 2020-21 season.

Willett collected 600 FedEx Cup points for his victory at Augusta National Golf Club, and his 44 non-member points from a tie for 22nd at the Valspar Championship give him 644 points, good for 27th in the standings,

That makes him a virtual lock to be inside the top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings after the Wyndham Championship, making him eligible to compete in the FedEx Cup Playoffs for the first time.

Willett also tied for third in both the WGC-HSBC Champions and the WGC-Cadillac Championship in addition to tying for 28th in the WGC-Dell Match Play, but he did not receive retroactive points for his those events as per PGA Tour regulations.

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The Englishman, who has won four times on the European Tour, including the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this season, was No. 9 in the World Golf Rankings last week.

--Adam Scott was iffy from the start about representing Australia in the Olympic Games in August, and recently he made it official, saying he definitely would not be in Rio de Janeiro in August.

Scott will be joined on the sideline by Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, who also said he would pass on the Games, which will hold golf competition for the first time since 1904 in St. Louis. Earlier, Vijay Singh of Fiji said he would skip the Olympics.

"My decision has been taken as a result of an extremely busy playing schedule around the time of the Olympics and other commitments, both personal and professional," Scott said in a statement.

"I have informed the Australian team captain and relevant authorities, who are understanding of my position, and I wish the Australian Olympic team the very best of luck in Rio."

Scott and top-ranked Jason Day figured to give the Aussies and captain Ian Baker-Finch perhaps the best two-man men's tandem in Rio.

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That leaves Marc Leishman, Marcus Fraser and Matt Jones to compete for the second spot on the Australian team. It is possible for a country to have as many as four players, if all are in the top 15 of the World Golf Rankings.

Scott's decision was ripped by Dawn Fraser, who won eight medals, including three golds, for Australia in women's swimming in 1956, 1960 and 1964.

"Very sorry to hear that Adam Scott cannot fit it into his schedule to play for Australia at the Olympics," Fraser wrote on Facebook. "Well done Adam great to put your country on hold so that you can fulfill your own schedule. How much money do you want in life? Not showing much for your country.

"I guess working three jobs a week to secure my place as an Olympic swimmer has giver (sic) me the strength to say what I feel about sporstmen (sic) and women that do this. Well done Adam may you enjoy your sport and the money you earn gives you great pleasure. I am still trying to survive at 78 years old but a very proud Australian."

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While Scott has maintained all along that he might not play in the Olympics, Oosthuizen's decision was something of a surprise.

"I have always represented South Africa with pride, so I didn't make my decision without a great deal of thought," said Oosthuizen, who cited family and schedule issues. "I would like to wish our golfers and all other athletes competing in Brazil all the very best for success."

As for the Americans, Jordan Spieth, Lexi Thompson, Bubba Watson and Stacy Lewis all have said they are excited about competing in the Games.

--Dame Laura Davies of England accepted an invitation to become honorary president of the Parliamentary Golf Group.

Davies, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and former world No. 1, was appointed a Member, Commander and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to golf.

"I am honored to accept the Honorary Presidency of the All-Party Parliamentary Golf Group," said Davies, who has 84 victories around the world in her career.

"The Group's deliberately broad aims and independent role in the sport mean they can tackle issues others cannot. I am delighted to accept the role and look forward to working with them."

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Davies, 52, still plays occasionally on the LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour, but she has not won since the 2012 ISPS Handa Legends Tour Open Championship after claiming six victories in 2010.

Last year, she founded the Laura Davies Foundation, with the objective of raising money for causes close to her heart in the United Kingdom and worldwide.

Lincoln PM Karl McCartney, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf, said of Davies, "What she has achieved in the game is phenomenal, and it is our intention to support both her work and hear from her where she feels we can support golf through Parliament. My Parliamentary colleagues and I are very much looking forward to working with her."

Davies has won four major titles -- the 1987 U.S. Women's Open, the 1994 and 1996 LPGA Championships and the 1996 du Maurier Classic. She also won the 1986 Women's British Open and the Evian Championship in 1996 and 1997, before those events became LPGA majors.

--The R&A announced that at a new nine-hole competition for men, women and juniors will be played on July 9, five days before the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon Golf Club in South Ayrshire, Scotland, in July.

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The event will include 30 amateur golfers of various playing levels.

The R&A said in a statement: "Our extensive survey on pace of play and the subsequent 'Time for Golf' conference at St. Andrews last November highlighted the challenges many people face in finding time to play 18 holes, with 60 percent of the golfers surveyed expressing the view that they would enjoy golf more if it took less time."

The survey also revealed that among 25-44 year-olds who are unhappy with the pace of play, 21 percent would like to see the playing time reduced by as much as 1 1/2 hours, and 19 percent said they would like to play nine holes more often.

Two-time Open champion Padraig Harrington Ireland is a proponent of the amateur tournament.

"For regular amateur golfers to be able to play The Open venue in championship condition immediately before the best players in the world is a fantastic initiative," said Harrington, who captured the 2007 and 2008 Open Championships in addition to the 2008 PGA Championship.

"I'm sure this new competitive format will encourage more people to get out on the golf course."

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Qualifying will be held at 13 R&A affiliated venues in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

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