Tiger Woods makes his latest return to competition at this week's Quicken Loans National. His foundation is the host and benefiting charity. The new title sponsor inked a multi-year agreement in March. The first round is scheduled to begin just 87 days after he underwent a microdiscectomy or procedure to relieve a pinched nerve in his back. Even before surgery, Woods admitted that swinging a driver caused little if no pain, so the maximum length of 7,569 yards at Congressional Country Club's Blue Course -- second-longest of the season behind Torrey Pines South (7,698 yards) -- is unlikely to present a roadblock. Instead, Woods admitted in his announcement last week that he'll simply be "rusty." That usually translates into imprecision on approach and inconsistency on and around greens.
Woods has won two of the five editions of the event at Congressional, which served as site of the first three in 2007-2009 and again since 2012. It sat out two years for the 2011 U.S. Open for which the old Poa annua greens were replaced with bentgrass. What Woods does when he reenters the ropes will no doubt command attention, but 119 others will also be attempting to tame what was the second-most challenging par 71 of nine played in non-majors in 2013. It averaged 1.124 strokes over par and boasted the second-hardest set of par 5s all season (next to Merion's pair for the U.S. Open). The Blue Course's trio of par 5s -- Nos. 6, 9 and 16 -- averaged 4.92.
Defending champion Bill Haas flourished en route to a three-stroke margin, ranking T4 in greens in regulation and second in strokes gained-putting. He circled a field-high 25 birdies. No one else had more than 21 par breakers. Seven of his were collected on his 12 trips through the par 5s.
A reasonable chance for rain dots the forecast all week. Summertime heating will help fuel afternoon thunderstorms, but they are expected to be isolated. High temperatures into the low 90s in conjunction with the humidity will likely evoke discussion of Ken Venturi's win in a sweltering 36-hole finale at the 1964 U.S. Open at Congressional.