No matter what Tiger Woods did this week, he was going to be in the first sentence of this column. (Sorry, Quicken Loans National winner Justin Rose, you're in the second.)
Woods returned to the PGA Tour after a nearly four-month absence, promptly missed the cut for only the 10th time in his career ... and declared himself pleased. Coming back four weeks earlier from back surgery than he anticipated, Woods said he was pain-free, and hit his driver well. It was the short game that cost him, he said, and that can return with more reps.
This reps will have to come outside of tournament play, however, as Woods is not scheduled to tee it up again until the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool beginning July 17. As always, don't underestimate how he will play there.
With Woods back on Tour, the sizzle was also back, at least for two days. As Doug Ferguson of the Associated Press tweeted, "6 major news outlets did not return to Congressional after Tiger missed the cut." Such is life in a Tiger-free golf world.
But the difficult, U.S. Open-like conditions made the weekend entertaining, albeit thanks to a procession of bogeys and double bogeys down the stretch, leaving Rose and unheralded Shawn Stefani in a playoff. The Englishman won on the first extra hole, thanks to the final double bogey of the day - Stefani's.
Stefani was oh-so-close to his maiden Tour win, as Rose sank a 15-footer on No. 18 simply to make bogey. Rose has now won on Tour five successive years and has been playing superbly for the past two months - really, all season - as he ramps up for Hoylake. After finishing eighth at the Zurich Classic in late April, Rose has gone 5-T4-MC-T12-P1. He has nine top-25s in 13 starts.
Stefani, though, takes home a couple of nice consolation prizes: 702 large for being the runner-up, and an invitation to the Open Championship. This was the first Open qualifier on the PGA Tour: The top four among the top 12 at Congressional who weren't already exempt got a berth.
Hoffman got one of those Royal Liverpool invites, birdieing two of the last three holes to secure a tie for third. It's been a quietly strong season for the veteran, as this was his fifth top-10 and 10th top-25. He's made the cut in 18 of his 19 starts and sits 22nd in the point standings. Oddly, though, he hasn't really contended for a title.
Martin joined Hoffman in a tie for third, likewise with two birdies in the final three holes, likewise will join him in the Open Championship and likewise is having a quietly strong season. Not quite as good as Hoffman, but one year removed from the Web.com Tour, Martin has cashed third-place checks. He's in the top 50 in the point standings and positioned for a deep run in the playoffs.
With his second T5 in as many weeks, Steele secured this week's fourth and final berth in the Open Championship "qualifying." How good Steele feels about that now is debatable, since he doubled the 18th to finish two strokes out of the playoff. Ouch. Of the four who qualified for the Open, only Hoffman has previously played in the major. The hard-luck loser was Andres Romero, who tied for fifth with Steele, but didn't get the final invite based on an inferior world ranking. Good break, however, for Steele owners.
Todd had already qualified for the Open. He was looking to add a second win to his breakthrough PGA Tour season. And he had it in his sights, leading when he made the turn on Sunday only to double-bogey the 10th. He wound up even with Steele and Romero. Little consolation at the moment, but Todd has five top-8s in his past nine starts, including his win at the Byron Nelson. Along with Rose, two of the hottest players on Tour.
With a T11, Horschel continues to turn around his season with a fourth consecutive top-25. He's steadily climbing the point standings, now at No. 56, and the slump after his breakthrough 2013 appears to have lasted all of a half-season. Horschel owners who were getting antsy, or worse, two months ago are being rewarded for their patience.
Reed had his best week in more than three months, since announcing at his WGC-Cadillac Championship victory news conference that he had joined the top 5 in the world. But Reed surely isn't happy with this week's result. Although fans and reporters have not let him forget his bold proclamation, Reed was primed to silence everyone, leading heading into Sunday and still leading when he made the turn. But he crashed with double-bogeys on Nos. 10 and 11 (hey, In-N-Out Burger, that's a double-double!) and three more bogeys coming in for a back-nine 41. Tied for 11th.
Woodland has four top-10s, nine top-25s, has missed only one cut and sits 25th in the point standings. And his owners, one of whom might be me, are not happy. And neither can he be. Besides the fact that his T46 at Congressional was his best showing in three weeks, Woodland is developing a habit of saving his worst for last. In his last seven starts, five times his worst round of the tournament was his final round. At Congressional: 72-71-69-78, falling 31 spots on Sunday. This trend showed its beginnings back in January when, as the 54-hole leader at the Farmers, Woodland finished in 10th place.
Palmer didn't do anything special this week - he tied for 55th. But he impressively sits 30th in the point standings. He did it largely on the strength on two second-place finishes earlier in the season - at the Humana in January and the Honda in March, when he lost in a playoff. But Palmer has augmented those near-misses with two more top-10s - at the Shell in April and at Colonial in May. No tops for Palmer in June, but he'll be in the Open Championship in July.
Singh opened the season back in October with solo second at the Frys and another top-25 the following week at the Shriners. But any thoughts of a remarkable season at age 50 (he's since turned 51) have subsided. Singh has done little since then, most recently with a T55 this week. He still sits 71st in the point standings, likely ensuring he'll be in the top 125. That would be better than last year, when he missed the playoffs for the first time.