Tiger Woods has found a way to stay competitive without having played for five months.
Woods, who said Monday that he has checked out of a clinic where he was getting help with managing pain medications, still managed to keep in touch with players.
Jason Day told Golf Channel that Woods sent him a text after the opening round of the U.S. Open asking that he call him because Woods saw something in his swing. Day shot 79 and said he was so angry he never called. Presidents Cup captain Steve Stricker told Golf Digest that Woods sounded good when they spoke on the phone. Woods is an assistant captain, and being around players in team settings has become some of his favorite moments.
And then there was the text to Jordan Spieth.
Spieth said Woods saw a statistic on Twitter that listed the players who finished runner-up to him in his first four PGA Tour victories — Davis Love III (Las Vegas), Payne Stewart (Disney), Tom Lehman (Mercedes Championship) and Tom Kite (Masters).
The text exchange came one day after Spieth had won the Travelers Championship, joining Woods as the only players to win at least 10 times before turning 24 (Woods won 15 times in 40 fewer starts).
Woods wanted to know who were the players to finish runner-up in Spieth's first four PGA Tour victories.
Spieth said he gave him the list — Zach Johnson (John Deere Classic), Patrick Reed (Valspar Championship), Phil Mickelson (Masters) and Dustin Johnson (U.S. Open).
"Tiger sent me a text back that said, 'Not bad,' with a winking face and then, 'Mine is still better,'" Spieth said with a laugh.
Spieth conveniently left out a few names. David Hearn also was in that playoff that Spieth won at the John Deere Classic in 2013. Sean O'Hair also was in the playoff he won at the Valspar Championship. Justin Rose tied for second with Mickelson at the 2015 Masters.
Even so, those are two impressive lists.
And in their fifth victory? Woods won the Byron Nelson Classic by two shots over Lee Rinker. Spieth won the John Deere Classic in a playoff over Tom Gillis.
OPEN SEASON: A pair of former Oklahoma State golfers found consolation in a runner-up finish last week — Peter Uihlein (French Open) and Charles Howell III (Quicken Loans National) earned spots in the Open Champiionship through the Open Qualifying Series.
The European Tour has a three-week stretch of offering three Open spots to players not already eligible who finish among the top 10 at the French, Irish and Scottish Opens. The PGA Tour is staggered differently — four spots at the Quicken Loans National, four this week at the Greenbrier Classic and one from the John Deere Classic (provided they finish among the top 12).
Uihlein, who finished one shot behind Tommy Fleetwood, will be playing in his second straight major. He qualified in a playoff for the U.S. Open (and missed the cut by one shot), and his runner-up finish in France moved him to No. 91 in the world, boosting his chances for an invitation to the PGA Championship.
Also qualifying for the Open out of France were Mike Lorenzo-Vera and Alexander Bjork. From the Quicken Loans National, the qualifiers were Kyle Stanley, Howell, Martin Laird and Sung Kang.
Narrowly missing — again — was Geoff Ogilvy.
Late last year, Ogilvy was in position to win the Australian Open, which offered three spots to Royal Birkdale. But he took a double bogey on the 16th hole that not only cost him the tournament, he was bumped from the Open. Ties go to the player with the best world ranking, so Aaron Baddeley got the final spot.
At the Quicken Loans National, Ogilvy ran off three straight birdies and was two behind with two to play. He came up short of the flag on the par-3 17th and into the water, and his bogey-bogey finish meant he missed by two shots getting into the Open.
Meanwhile, Webb Simpson and Scott Piercy were added to the field at Royal Birkdale when it became clear that at least two spots would be available after all the allotments from the Open Qualifying Series.
After this week, the world ranking will be used to determine alternates. Anirban Lahiri, Tony Finau and James Hahn currently hold those spots; Lahiri is the only one not playing this week.
BACK TO BIRKDALE: Few players can claim a home game at a major, and Tommy Fleetwood is an exception.
But not really.
Fleetwood, who rose to No. 15 in the world with his victory in the French Open, grew up near Royal Birkdale in Southport. That's not to suggest he knows the links course better than Phil Mickelson, who will be making his fourth appearance at Birkdale.
"It's the one course in the area that I've probably got the least experience on, just because of the exclusivity of it — it's Royal Birkdale," Fleetwood said. "But I think looking at it and people wishing me good luck and people talking about it, it's going to be an experience that I've never had in my life. And I think very few people get the chance to have a home crowd that's massively in your favor."
He has played at Birkdale, just not for very long.
After his tie for fourth in the U.S. Open, Fleetwood said his father would walk the dog past the links every day.
"When I was 7 or 8, we used to sneak on and hit a few shots when nobody was looking," he said.
They'll be watching now.
DIVOTS: Tommy Fleetwood has earned the second-most world ranking points this year behind Dustin Johnson. ... In the six years of The Greenbrier Classic, none of the 54-hole leaders has gone on to win. Three of the champions have started the final round at least four shots out of the lead. ... The UL International Crowd is going outside the United States for first time next year. It will be played Oct. 4-7 in South Korea, right about the time the LPGA Tour begins its late-season Asian swing. ... Lexi Thompson, Inbee Park and Amy Yang are the only players to finish in the top 10 at both LPGA Tour majors this year. No one on the PGA Tour has managed top 10s in both majors. ... Wisconsin is hosting its third tournament in four weeks — the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, followed by the American Family Insurance Classic in Madison, and this week the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic near Green Bay.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Bubba Watson has shot in the 60s every round in his three previous times playing the Greenbrier Classic. He has not finished better than 13th.
FINAL WORD: "When you win, you don't think you're ever going to lose. And then when you're losing all the time, you think you're never going to win. That's just how brutal our sport is." — U.S. Senior Open champion Kenny Perry.
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