Tiger Woods is beginning the second year of his latest comeback campaign, a return from multiple surgeries on his back. While Woods has remained relatively healthy over the past 15 months, precisely what caused Woods’ woes remains a debate. Some point to the staggering amount of swings he’s taken in his lifetime. Others assert Tiger overdid it in the weight room, former caddie Stevie Williams claims it is self-inflicted from Woods’ fiddles with military training, and parts of the Internet subscribe to more cynical theories.

However, according to a new study, Tiger’s injuries—and injuries of other modern golfers—can be distilled to a far more elementary notion.

In the latest issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine, a group of doctors from the Barrow Neurological Institute make the case that the modern “X-factor” swing favored by many professionals may hit balls harder and farther, but it can also put extra strain on the spine.

Comparing today’s players with legends like Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan, the doctors maintain today’s players are more muscular and have more powerful downswings, and this can put increased force on the spinal disc and facet joints, which leads to repetitive traumatic discopathy.

“We believe Tiger Wood’s experience with spinal disease highlights a real and under-recognized issue amongst modern era golfers,” writes Dr. Corey T. Walker. “RTD results from years of degenerative ‘hits’ or strains on the spine resulting in early onset breakdown, instability, and pain. We hope medical practitioners, and surgeons in particular, will be able to diagnose and treat golfers with RTD in a specialized fashion going forward.”

The group continues that, not only are current golfers experiencing more back injuries than their predecessors, but that they are victims to such issues earlier in life than non-golfers in their age range.

This line of thinking is not new, as Phil Mickelson has long been a proponent of these findings. “You can play golf for a lifetime and injury-free if you swing the club like Bobby Jones did, like Ernest Jones used to teach—where it’s a swinging motion rather than a violent movement,” Mickelson said at the 2016 Masters. “A lot of the young guys get hurt as they create this violent, connected movement, and I don’t believe that’s the proper way to swing the golf club.”

While the report can be worrisome for golfers both professional and amateur, other health experts maintain stretching and improving your core muscles can stave off injury. Golf Digest Fitness Advisor Ben Shear says back discomfort can be avoided by “Strengthening the muscles at the bottom of the spine, and improve flexibility in the mid and upper back.”

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By Josh Berhow

Justin Thomas led heading into the final day of the Genesis Open, but J.B. Holmes, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and others were lurking in what was a long and cold day at Riviera Country Club. Here’s what you missed.

Who won: J.B. Holmes (one-under 70, 14 under overall)

How it happened: Lots of golf was played on Sunday. Thursday’s rain delay pushed the entire tournament back and players returned to the course early on Sunday to finish their third rounds before teeing off for their final round. Thomas was two holes into his third round and led by one when play was called on Saturday, and when the third round was complete he was at 17 under and leading by four. But a lot changed Sunday afternoon. Thomas bogeyed three of the first five and Holmes took his first solo lead with a birdie on 10 when Thomas made bogey. Thomas birdied 11 to Holmes’s bogey to retake a one-shot lead, but Thomas needed seven putts on the 13th and 14th and made double bogey and bogey to fall two behind Holmes. Thomas birdied 16 to cut the lead to one, but couldn’t make a final birdie to catch Holmes. Thomas signed for a 75.

Key hole: Holmes and Thomas alternated two-shot swings on the 10th and 11th holes, but Thomas four-putted for double bogey on the 13th. That costly error gave Holmes a lead he never lost.

Why it matters: It’s the 36-year-old Holmes’s fifth win of his PGA Tour career and first since the 2015 Shell Houston Open. Holmes’s first two victories came in 2006 and 2008, and he later overcame brain surgery in 2011 before rejoining the PGA Tour in early 2012. The 2014 Wells Fargo Championship was his first victory after returning from surgery.

Best shot when it mattered: Holmes, leading by two with three to play, hit his tee shot on the par-3 16th into the bunker, but he made a key par save from 11 feet. Thomas followed by knocking in his short birdie putt, but Holmes’s clutch par kept him out in front and prevented the two-shot swing.

Notables: Woods closed with a 72 and finished T15, McIlroy shot 69 to finish T4 and Jordan Spieth made quad on the par-4 10th and shot a 10-over 81, his highest score in relation to par in his pro career.

Best secondary storyline: J.B. Holmes’s sluggish pace was noticed by the broadcast team — and social media.

Up next: Phil Mickelson defends his title south of the border as we gear up for the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship. Woods is also in the field.

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By Josh Berhow
February 12, 2019

Tiger Woods on Tuesday announced Fred Couples, Steve Stricker and Zach Johnson as his Presidents Cup assistant captains for this year’s biennial event in Australia.

Couples has played in four Presidents Cups and captained three U.S. teams, winning in 2009, 2011 and 2013. This will mark his third appearance as an assistant captain. Woods and Couples were both assistant captains under Steve Stricker at Liberty National in 2017.

Stricker has played in five Presidents Cups and captained the Americans’ winning team in 2017. This is his second time as an assistant captain.

Johnson, 42, the youngest of the three assistant captains, played in four Presidents Cups and will make his debut as an assistant captain.

Tiger Woods will captain the Presidents Cup team for the first time in 2019.

“These guys I’ve all known for a very, very long time,” Woods said in a video announcing the picks. “I consider them some of my closest friends.”

Woods, who is making his second start of the season at this week’s Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club, still has the option to name a final assistant captain.

The 2019 Presidents Cup is Dec. 9-15 at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Melbourne, Victoria, in Australia. The International squad is captained by Ernie Els. The U.S. is 10-1-1 in the Presidents Cup and has won the last seven meetings.

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The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is set to tee off this week at iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links, and once again it’s loaded with some big-time celebrities. Here are 12 of the biggest names and familiar faces to keep an eye on this week along the Monterey coastline.

You can view the full list of celebrity participants here.

Tony Romo

After calling his first Super Bowl this past weekend for CBS alongside Jim Nantz, Romo will be teeing it up again at Pebble Beach this week. The former Dallas Cowboy and Pro Bowler made his PGA Tour debut at the 2018 Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship, where he missed the cut. He has also played in tour Q-school and attempted U.S. Open Qualifying several times in recent years.

Jake Owen

Before turning his interests to country music, Owen initially pursued a career as a pro golfer. He won his first tournament at age 15. He’s still a big golfer today, and he was awarded a sponsor’s exemption into the Tour’s Nashville Golf Open this past year.

Larry Fitzgerald

Romo won’t be the only participant at the pro-am with football ties, as the Arizona Cardinals wide receiver will take part again. Fitzgerald says that he’s a 10 or 11 handicap and that he packs a cut-off shaft during road weeks so he can practice his swing. Last month, the Pro Bowler made an ace while playing a round with former President Barack Obama.

Ray Romano

The actor and stand-up comedian participated in Golf Channel’s The Haney Project, in which Tiger Woods’s former coach helped celebrities and athletes improve their game. Romano’s been a regular participant in the pro-am and frequently plays in the American Century Celebrity Golf Classic.

Aaron Rodgers

Make that three football stars who will be in action at Pebble Beach this week. The Super Bowl champion and league MVP Rodgers enters with a reported 4.0 handicap index, and he has expressed interest in playing alongside viral sensation Hosung Choi.

Darius Rucker

The singer, who also frequents Pebble Beach every year for the pro-am, is a single-digit handicap and hosts an annual post-Masters pro-am. Rucker is good friends with Tiger Woods and sang at his wedding and father’s funeral. Rucker was also a VIP guest of Team USA at the 2016 Ryder Cup.

Matt Ryan

Oh look, another Pro Bowl and MVP quarterback playing at Pebble! Ryan, who tosses the pigskin around for the Atlanta Falcons, is an avid golfer and has participated in a number of tournaments such as the American Century Celebrity Golf Classic.

Tom Dreesen

The actor and stand-up comedian hosts an annual celebrity golf tournament called the Tom Dreesen Celebrity Classic.

Colt Ford

Before becoming a country music singer, Ford was a pro on the Tour.

Joe Don Rooney

The Rascal Flatts’s lead guitarist, who played in last year’s pro-am, says he’s played around 60 of the country’s top 100 courses.

Larry the Cable Guy

The comedian says he used to hate golf, but credits Boo Weekley with getting him into the game. He played in last year’s pro-am too.

Kelly Slater

The professional surfer is an avid golfer when not catching waves.

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