By Dave Shedloski
The ninth edition of the Quicken Loans National brings a number of notable changes, including a new venue, a different date, and the host, Tiger Woods, simply hoping to play four rounds of golf, as he mentioned in his pre-tournament interview Tuesday afternoon.
Traditionally contested between the U.S. Open and the British Open, the Quicken Loans National will conclude as the calendar leaks into August due to a quick change in the schedule. Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia, is the host site, and although it’s never been used for this tournament, RTJ GC has been the site of four Presidents Cup matches, including the inaugural in 1994 covered by CBS Sports.
Offering a purse of $6.7 million, the Quicken Loans National might be one of the last events of the 2014-15 season for Woods, the former No. 1 player in the world. He has fallen to 266 in the Official World Golf Ranking and is far outside the top 125 in the PGA TOUR’s FedExCup Playoff Standings. A win this week, which would be his third in the event and 80th of his career, would not only help his playoff bid, but it would also earn him a spot in next week’s World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. Woods has won that event eight times.
Defending champion Justin Rose is one of three players in the top 15 in the field, joined by Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker. Additionally, Fowler and Walker are among 13 winners from this season highlighting the lineup.
CBS Sports golf analyst Gary McCord comments on the course, the field and perhaps what to expect from the tournament host.
This golf course, Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, has never hosted this event, but there are 10 players in the field who have experience on it via the Presidents Cup. Assess how the players will fare this week on the par-71 course, 7,385 yards.
I was there for the Presidents Cup. It’s a gorgeous golf course; it’s really pretty with some of those holes on Lake Manassas. The visuals for television are going to be fantastic. There are lots of subtle doglegs there. You have to keep it in play, out of the bunkers and the rough. It’s been changed a bit since 1994. I’m sure it’s going to be a great test. It should be interesting.
Justin Rose, the defending champion, has been on the cusp of winning a couple of times this year, including at the Masters and the Memorial Tournament. But he hasn’t won since his victory last year at Congressional Country Club. Is this the week he breaks out again?
He’s the top-ranked player in the field (No. 7), and you keep waiting for him to win more majors; that’s what he’s built for. The way he drives it, the way he swings it, how he manages his game… there’s a lot of good things he does with all those tools. We saw what he did at Merion. He’s a great ball striker, which you need to be this week. He’ll definitely be there at the end.
We couldn’t possibly know what to expect from Tiger Woods after he’s missed the cut in the last two majors, but give us your thoughts on his game. What do you make of his chances?
It’s compelling to watch for all the wrong reasons. It’s kind of like watching Superman jump in a swimming pool full of kryptonite. You think he can swim, and there he is flailing around. We used to watch him hit spectacular shot after spectacular shot and drain every putt, and now we’re not sure what’s going to happen. So I was thinking to myself, ‘what do I look for now when I watch Tiger?’ How about just a couple of good holes in a row, three or four? And then maybe he can stretch it to nine good holes, and then 18, and then maybe 36. We start with the little steps. And then maybe something happens, it gets contagious and he gets back into that groove we’re used to seeing. At what point do viewers — and I’m a viewer — say ‘well, that’s it,’ and we move on? But I’m still optimistic that he can put it all back together and that we’ll see that same brilliance we’ve seen before.
What do you make of Ollie Schniederjans, the McCormack winner, making his pro debut last week? He had it going there for a while at the RBC Canadian Open and was hovering around the leaders.
I have never seen a group of young players with more talent and ability to compete than what we are seeing right now. This kid, Ollie, he’s got a lot of game and can compete. There are a bunch of young players with skills. They are in their own little solar system that revolves around Jordan Spieth, and he’s the one they define their games by. It’s no longer Tiger and Phil that they associate with but Jordan Spieth, who they played against in junior golf and in college. They have set themselves apart early. It bodes well for our future in the game.
We talk a lot about Tiger and his slump of late, but another veteran, Ernie Els, has fallen out of the top 100 and might miss the Presidents Cup. He has struggled all year.
Nothing worse than age. Believe me, it’s hard to deal with. I’ve never seen anyone get better as they get older. Tom Watson… now he has held his serve for a long, long time. So has Hale Irwin. I’m willing to bet Vijay Singh (in the field this week) will hold his serve a long time. But there are precious few. It’s all about the competitive stuff inside you. More than anything else, what affects you as you get older is focus. Your mind wanders for three or four holes, and that’s enough. Ernie is experiencing a little bit of that now. Obviously, he still swings it great. But it’s hard to hold your focus for 72 holes.
Give us your favorites and dark horses.
When you look at guys who are really rounding into form, I think you have to start with Rickie Fowler, who won the Scottish Open. Also won The Players this year. He’s looking good. Not that Robert Trent Jones is necessarily a course for long hitters, but I like Tony Finau as a dark horse. He’s been playing some good golf of late. Might be his time.
Journalist and author David Shedloski of Columbus, Ohio, has been covering golf since 1986, first as a daily newspaper reporter and later as a freelance writer for various magazines and Internet outlets. A winner of 23 national writing awards, including 20 for golf coverage, Shedloski is currently a contributing writer for Golf World and GolfDigest.com and serves as editorial director for The Memorial, the official magazine of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He is the author of three books and has contributed to three others, including the second edition of “Golf For Dummies,” with Gary McCord. He’s a fan of all Cleveland professional sports teams, the poor fellow.