2014 Quicken Loans National preview: Tiger Woods makes his return at Congressional

Rob Carr

The biggest star in golf makes a sooner-than-expected return from back surgery this week at the Quicken Loans National. But just getting through four rounds and playing the weekend as opposed to winning is likely the goal.

A few weeks ago, when Martin Kaymer was putting the finishing touches on his U.S. Open masterpiece, it appeared as if the PGA Tour season would march on as an afterthought. With all due respect to tournaments like the Travelers and the Greenbrier Classic, there wasn't a lot to look forward to on the late June and early July schedule.

That all changed in an instant when Tiger Woods announced that he would make his return from back surgery at the Quicken Loans National, the tournament he hosts and benefits his own foundation. Like him or not, Tiger is still the biggest draw in the game and there's no one that comes close. His presence alone will rejuvenate interest, even when he's not playing, as we move towards the Open Championship in mid-July.

About the Course

Since the inception of the Quicken Loans National in 2007, the tournament has been contested at Congressional Country Club every year except two. Congressional, just outside Washington DC, has hosted three U.S. Opens as well. It is the home club of many of our nation's elected leaders and provides an excellent backdrop for Tiger's tournament.

As you can imagine, the layout can be manipulated to make the course quite difficult (or not if you ask Rory McIlroy). This week won't be U.S. Open conditions, but it will play tougher than the average Tour stop. Reports but the rough at three-to-four inches in some spots, which won't be easy hacking on Tiger's surgically-repaired back. I would bet you don't see seven straight birdies this week.

Tournament Buzz

This week is all about the return of Tiger. With all the coverage surrounding Woods, it's hard to believe there are other players in the tournament. (There are, I promise.) It will be interesting to see the state of Tiger's game. As he admitted, he will be rusty. But on the other hand, Tiger has mentioned he worked a lot on his short game while recovering from back surgery.

This is also the last chance we will get to see Tiger before the Open Championship, which starts July 17. I don't expect Tiger to win, but this week will go a long way in telling us how Tiger will perform at the third major championship this year. Think of this week as a building block and a chance to play some competitive golf. Nothing more.

Players to Watch

Tiger Woods - No one really knows how Tiger will play this week. He will be rusty, but has won this tournament two of the four times he's played it. I would imagine he makes the weekend, but not much else. He just wants to be in a position to contend at Hoylake in a few weeks. Four full rounds of golf will be great prep.

Jordan Spieth - He'll be out there with Tiger for the first two rounds which means every fan at Congressional will be following these guys. Spieth, however, has a much better chance to contend than his playing partner.

Jason Day - Rounding out the group is Jason Day. He may have the best chance of winning. He's looked good since returning from a thumb injury that stunted the momentum coming out of his WGC Match Play title in February.

TV Info

Date

Time

Channel

6/26/14

2:30 - 6:30 pm

Golf Channel

6/27/14

2:30 - 6:30 pm

Golf Channel

6/28/14

1:00 - 2:30 pm

3:00 - 6:00 pm

Golf Channel

CBS

6/29/14

1:00 - 2:30 pm

3:00 - 6:30 pm

Golf Channel

CBS

Winner Pick

How about Brandt Snedeker? Things looked grim a few weeks ago at the U.S. Open when Sneds couldn't even bend down to pick his ball out of the hole. He seems fine now after a T11 last week. He shot a 62 on this course last year and is trending in the right direction coming into the week. He's my pick to win at Congressional.

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