For Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the battle cry is, 'wait'll next year.'
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, for those just tuning in, have had rather forgettable seasons. And while Lefty has a chance to salvage the latter part of his 2014 campaign with a decent showing in the FedExCup playoffs that start Thursday at The Barclays, Tiger has returned to the PUP list at least until December.
Both superstars, while eyeing different short-term goals, have their sights set on next year.
"That’s it; that’s all I’m playing," Woods told Golf Channel’s Gary Williams about his slated return for the World Golf Challenge, which benefits his foundation. "And then starting in 2015."
Terming recovery from a bad back "a slow, tedious process," Woods, who appeared with Rory McIlroy on Jimmy Fallon’s "Tonight Show" Monday but did not even wield a wedge in the "Facebreakers" game, acknowledged he would not swing a club "for at least another month."
It may be longer than that, since Woods told ESPN's Darren Rovell it would likely "be a month or two" before he returned to the practice range.
Woods' back required surgery in March to relieve a pinched nerve and caused him tremendous pain during his last competitive outing, the second round of the PGA Championship. He hobbled away after carding only the fourth missed cut at a major.
"It’s just about getting stronger, getting more stable, eventually getting more dynamic, getting more explosive," Woods said, repeating his goals like a mantra he has been chanting since coming back from a microdiscectomy to play in another of his hosted events, June’s Quicken Loans National. "Getting my body more athletic again. It’s a process."
Woods, who withdrew from the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational after hurting his back by falling into a bunker on the second hole, took himself out of Ryder Cup contention and cancelled an appearance at the Notah Begay III Foundation Challenge. He said he teed it up at Congressional only because of the National's relationship to the Tiger Woods Foundation and promptly flailed his way to an MC.
Failing to qualify for the four-game playoff series, Woods will not be a participant at next week’s Deutsche Bank Championship, which has raised more than $24 million for the TW Foundation and New England charities over the years.
Mickelson, who witnessed witnessed first-hand Woods' struggles at Valhalla, has had his own physical issues with injuries forcing him to withdraw from two early tourneys. Form has been a problem as well, as he did not post a top-10 finish until he came in second at the PGA.
While the five-time major winner is still on his feet and heading to the Ryder Cup after the playoffs, the popular 44-year-old was mostly looking forward to some R&R before getting off to a strong start in 2015 that he hoped would propel him into the 2016 Olympics.’’
"I have to play well this week and in the FedExCup to really make the year salvageable," Mickelson said ahead of his 7:53 a.m. tee time on Thursday at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J.
Upon further reflection, however, the 10th-ranked player in the world conceded that even a robust performance in the four FEC matches might not be enough to erase the memories of a less-than-stellar 2014.
"I don't even know if that would do it because it hasn't been a great year and I'm okay with that. I know that I've made great strides this year in driving the golf ball and I've made great strides in my wedge play, but it's been a terrible year for my wedge and short iron. I also had a very poor year putting," said Mickelson.
As with Woods, January 1 can’t come soon enough for the winner of 42 PGA Tour events.
"I'm actually more looking forward to 2015 and after these next few events, after the Ryder Cup, I'll probably take the rest of the year off, work on my fitness, work on my golf game and really focus on 2015 because 2015 is when the points start accumulating really for the Olympics," he said. "I don't know why that's important to me but it is. I want to be a 46‑year‑old Olympian. That's pretty cool."
While Tiger likely has similarly lofty aims on his to-do list, for now just swinging a golf club without grimacing would be a major feat.
"You can’t just hop in and do it all at once," said Woods, whose best 2014 season result was a T25 at Doral. "You’ve got to take it step by step."
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