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PGA Golf

Pal Notah Begay says Tiger Woods unlikely to play in U.S. Open in June


The friendship between former PGA player-turned-Golf Channel analyst Notah Begay goes all the way back to their days as teammates on the golf team at Stanford, so if anyone may have insight on what Tiger’s plans are as he recovers from back surgery on March 31, it likely would be him.

Begay appeared on CBS Radio on Monday and indicated that his best guess is that Woods will be unable to play in the U.S. Open this year, which begins on June 12 at Pinehurst. Begay feels that it will require a minimum of 90 days at least for Tiger to fully recover from his back surgery, a procedure that prevented Tiger from playing in the Masters for the first time in 20 years.

“I’ve been in contact with him this week. He missed being at Augusta and certainly was watching the tournament, (but) I think he needs to give (his back) a minimum of 90 days to make sure that scar tissue heals up appropriately and he doesn’t run the risk of re-injuring it,” he said via “So that would push him past the U.S. Open.”

Begay noted that recovery from the kind of injury and resulting surgery Tiger has been through will take a lot of work and some time.

“I’ve dealt with back injury and nerve damage,” said Begay, via Eye on Golf. “It’s like having a constant toothache 24 hours a day. He’s just at the point where something needed to be done.

“It’s all going to matter on the rehab. And I think he needs to give it a minimum of 90 days, in my opinion. To make sure that scar tissue heals up appropriately and he doesn’t re-injure it.”

Woods, the fierce competitor that he is, undoubtedly will attempt to prove Begay and any naysayers wrong and try to come back in time to play in the U.S. Open. But if Begay is correct in saying that Woods should take his time and make sure he is 100% healthy before attempting to take on the rigors of a course set up for a U.S. Open, his stubbornness may do him more harm than good.

Woods likely realizes, though, that he is 38 years old and with his chances of tying or breaking Jack Nicklaus’ majors record dwindling and becoming more and more remote with each passing year, it’s possible he would opt to risk his long-term health for a shot at playing in the three remaining majors on the calendar this season.

But then again, if he isn’t fully healthy, what chances does he have at actually competing? That’s the question Tiger alone will have to answer as he deals with a grueling rehabilitation, which he presumably hasn’t even started yet, as not only did Woods miss competing in the Masters, he couldn’t even attend the Champions Dinner beforehand after doctors told him he had to remain “very still” for at least a couple weeks.

Tiger did, however, tweet how much he loved watching Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus hit their ceremonial tee shots on Thursday. Tiger probably realizes that he’s closer to joining the man he is pursuing in career major victories and taking on that kind of role at the Masters than he is the heady days of 1997 when he secured his first green jacket.