Published : 2013-08-30 19:50
Updated : 2013-08-30 19:50
NORTON, Massachusetts (AFP) ― World No. 1 Tiger Woods heads into the Deutsche Bank Championship on Friday hoping to remain free of the back pain that dogged him in a runner-up finish last week.
“It was a pleasant surprise to go out there and play without any discomfort,” Woods said Thursday after a pro-am round at TPC Boston, the par-71 layout hosting the $8 million second event in the U.S. PGA Tour’s season-ending playoffs.
“It’s a lot better than, obviously, on Sunday,” said Woods, who dropped to his knees in pain after hitting one shot last weekend and later pulled out of his buddy Notah Begay’s charity golf event.
Woods said he’d benfitted from an extra day off, with this week’s tournament starting on Friday and concluding on Monday ― the American Labor Day holiday.
He’ll also continue to have daily treatment as he bids to keep his playoff challenge going.
Woods remains in first place in the playoff points standings. Australian Adam Scott moved into second in the standings ― as well as the world rankings ― with his victory last week in the Barclays.
It was Scott’s first win since he captured his first major title at the Masters in April.
British Open champion Phil Mickelson is third in the standings, followed by fellow American Matt Kuchar and England’s U.S. Open champion Justin Rose.
The field for this week’s tournament has been whittled from 125 to the top 100 in the standings.
Only 70 will move on to the BMW Championship, and the series culminates with the top 30 players competing in the Tour Championship ― with a $10 million playoff bonus at stake.
Scott was looking forward to trying to build on his Barclays success at a course where he won his first US PGA Tour title back in 2003.
“This is one of my favorite events on the Tour and defintely has a special place in my heart,” said Scott, who is grouped in the first two rounds with Woods and Mickelson.
He said playing in a marquee group with the U.S. stars at the 2008 U.S. Open was one of his best golfing memories.
“We’re all playing really well this year. So hopefully we can push each other along and make a lot of birdies, and it will be an enjoyable couple of days,” Scott said.
At the other end of the spectrum, defending Deutsche Bank champion Rory McIlroy returns to TPC Boston trying to turn around a disappointing season.
Although he has slipped to fourth in the world, McIlroy insists there is no serious problem with his game, pointing to four top-10 finishes in the United States that included a runner-up effort at the Texas Open.
“I don‘t think there’s anything wrong,” McIlroy said. “I‘ve played pretty well at times this year ... I feel like my game is definitely running in a little bit of form.”
McIlroy said his late-season surge in 2012 -- including a major title at the PGA Championship and back-to-back wins in the Deutsche Bank and BMW Championship -- was an especially tough measuring stick.
“I guess I’m a victim of my own success at times,” he said. “But I know how well I can play and I want to get back to that level.”
This week, he said, he hopes to play well enough to improve his position in the playoff standings, with the goal of reaching the top five through the BMW Championship in Chicago.
“Something like that, so I actually have a chance to still win the thing going into Atlanta,” he said.
“I know I need to produce a couple of really good finishes to do that, but I feel like I‘m playing well enough to do that.”