Golf notebook: Day (back) aims to return in Atlanta

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[September 12, 2016]  By Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange

--Top-ranked Jason Day of Australia withdrew from the BMW Championship after eight holes of his title defense Sunday at Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel, Ind., because of a back injury.

However, he plans to play in the Tour Championship next week at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

Day reportedly tweaked his lower back when he bent down to put a tee in the ground on the ninth tee box and decided to withdraw rather than risk further injury.

"He's all right, he's just got some back issues and is in a little bit of pain," Day's manager Bud Martin said. "I don't think it's anything that he hasn't dealt with before.

"The trainer is maybe thinking it's the same type of thing that he dealt with I think at The Barclays, and last year where he picked something up in his bus and it kind of got out of line.

"But just better safe than sorry. Instead of forcing it, we just decided that it was more prudent to kind of come in, get it worked on and deal with it."

Day slipped from second to fourth in the point standings, but because he remained in the top five, he would win the FedExCup with a victory in the Tour Championship.

--Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson gave us some compelling golf over the years. We might see it again next month.

Woods announced on his website that he plans to return to competitive golf in the Safeway Open from Oct. 13-16 at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, Calif., the first of three events he hopes to play before the end of the year.

Mickelson, his longtime rival, also is in the field for the Safeway and immediately began lobbying to play alongside Woods.

"I'm hoping we can get paired together (at the Safeway Open)," Lefty said of his longtime rival. "That would be really fun. I would love it. It's great to have him back, and hopefully he's physically able to practice the way he needs."

Woods has not played competitive golf since he underwent two back procedures after he tied for 10th in the Wyndham Championship in August 2015.

"My rehabilitation is to the point where I'm comfortable making plans, but I still have work to do," Woods said in a statement at tigerwoods.com. "Whether I can play depends on my continued progress and recovery. My hope is to have my game ready to go. ...

"It could be a fun fall. It was difficult missing tournaments that are important to me, but this time I was smart about my recovery and didn't rush it."

Woods' schedule includes the Safeway Open, the first event of the 2016-17 PGA Tour season; the Turkish Airlines Open from Nov. 3-6; and the Hero World Challenge, which benefits the Tiger Woods Foundation, from Dec. 1-4 in the Bahamas.

The statement also said he would take part in the Tiger Woods Invitational, scheduled for Oct. 10-11 in the Monterey Peninsula.

Woods, 40, has won 79 times on the PGA Tour, three short of Sam Snead's record, and owns 14 major titles, four behind Jack Nicklaus' mark. He has said he believes he can equal or surpass both.

--Henrik Stenson of Sweden, the 2013 FedEx Cup champion who won the Open Championship in July at Royal Troon, withdrew before the start of the BMW because of ongoing problems with his left knee.

Stenson, who also skipped The Barclays to start the playoffs, slipped 12 spots to No. 36 in the standings and will miss the Tour Championship. Only the top 30 qualify.

--Nike stunned the golf world about a month ago by saying it would quit the club-making business, despite having endorsement contracts with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, among other top players.

Chief executive officer Phil Knight, founder of Nike, told ESPN recently what led to the decision.

"It was kind of an easy financial decision (to shut down Nike golf)," Knight said on the "Mike and Mike" show. "It was a really tough emotional decision. It was hard emotionally. It was hard emotionally for Tiger. I spoke to him a couple times. He was upset, and I was upset.

"It was something we would have rather not have happened, but the financial reality just led us to it."

Notah Begay III, a Golf Channel commentator who is a close friend of Woods and was his teammate at Stanford, said Woods' dining room looks like a PGA Tour superstore.

That's because other club-making companies have been sending him equipment in hopes that he will sign with them.

"He's trying a variety of different things, trying to get a sense of where he's going to go from this point on," Begay said.

--Andrew "Beef" Johnston of England, who became a golf sensation this season on both major tours, is playing in four-event Web.com Tour Finals in an effort to earn his PGA Tour card for the 2016-17 season.

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The 27-year-old Johnston made the trip across the pond to tee it up in the DAP Championship at Canterbury Country Club in Beachwood, Ohio.

"You want to play the best tournaments in the world where you can," said the gregarious Johnston, who finished solo eighth in the Open Championship at Royal Troon in July.

"That's the goal is to play the biggest and best tournaments, and they happen to have a lot of them here. I like coming over and that. So obviously if I'm in there more, I'm going to be over more. It's quite straightforward."

Johnston earned enough non-member points to finish within the top 200 on the FedExCup points list this season, also tying for 54th in the U.S. Open, tying for 42nd in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and tying for 60th in the PGA Championship.

While he has shown that he has the game, the bearded Johnston also is captivating fans.

In addition, the media loves his candor and humor in his press conferences.

Johnston, who won twice on the Challenge Tour in Europe in 2014, posted five finishes in the top 10 on the European Tour this season, including his first victory at the Open de Espana in April.

He tied for 28th in the DAP Championship and is in the field this week for the Albertson Boise (Idaho) Open at Hillcrest Country Club.

--Maria Hjorth McBride of Sweden, who has won five times on the LPGA Tour, announced that she is stepping away from golf at the age of 42 to concentrate on her family.

McBride's 7-year-old daughter, Emily, recently started school in Orlando, Fla.

"You miss out," said McBride, who would not say she is retiring. "I know that it's the right choice."

McBride has won 11 times as a pro, including the 2010 LPGA Tour Championship, and her last title came in the 2011 Avnet LPGA Classic.

The closest she came to a major title was losing in a playoff to Yani Tseng of Taiwan on the fourth hole of a playoff in the 2008 McDonald's LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock Golf Course in Havre de Grace, Md.

McBride thought the end would come after Emily was born, but she won twice after that with her husband and caddie, Shaun McBride, on the bag.

"Once I got pregnant, I was still playing good golf," said McBride, who won the Ladies English Open in 2004 and 2005. "Why not?"

McBride also played top-division curling in Sweden.

--Thomas Pieters of Belgium was riding high, coming off his selection as a captain's pick for the European Ryder Cup team and his third European Tour victory in the Best of Denmark tournament.

Pieters, 24, was looking forward to defending his title in the KLM Open last week at The Dutch golf course in Spijk, Netherlands.

Then a bee took him down.

Pieters had an allergic reaction to a bee sting and was forced to withdraw hours before his first-round tee time.

"The very unfortunate worst case scenario just happened," Pieters wrote on his website. "One bee sting ... during the golf challenge against Joost Luiten, led to a major allergic reaction with flu symptoms and forced me to pull out of my favorite tournament of the year, the KLM Open."

Pieters, who finished fourth and just out of the medals in the Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro, is expected to play next in the Porsche European Open in Bad Griesbach, Germany from Sept. 22-25, the final Euro Tour event before the Ryder Cup.

SDA - Ace

--Si Woo Kim of South Korea, who captured the Wyndham Championship in August, has been classified as a rookie by the PGA Tour for this season and will be eligible for the PGA Tour's Rookie of the Year Award.

According to PGA Tour regulations, a player's rookie season is defined as the season in which he becomes a PGA Tour member (including Special Temporary Members) and plays in 10 or more events as a member or finishes in the Top 125 on the official FedExCup points List, the Top 125 on the official PGA Tour money list or qualifies as a Top 125 non-member, whichever occurs first.

Kim earned PGA Tour status for the 2013 season but played only eight events as a member.

Last week, Kim tied for 20th in the BMW Championship. At 18th in the FedExCup standings, hr will be one of two rookies who play in the Tour Championship next week at East Lake in Atlanta. The other is Emiliano Grillo of Argentina, who is ninth in the standings.

The winner of the 2015-16 Rookie of the Year award is expected to be announced in early October.

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