Woods has hosted the Quicken Loans National since 2007, and it benefits his foundation. He has only played in it twice since 2012. He was there last year but didn’t play; instead he presented the trophy to champion Billy Hurley III.
Fans at this year’s event had mixed reactions about his absence.
“It doesn’t seem complete with him not here,” said Kelsey Karlin, 29, a customer service representative from Frederick.
Fans and spectators have still shown up to TPC Potomac, even though Woods isn’t there.
“I really enjoy coming to these tournaments, seeing how good these guys are,” said Steve Harmin, 52, a software engineer from Arlington. Harmin said it’s a big deal that Woods isn’t here, “but I guess to me, golf is bigger than the celebrity.”
Others, however, noticed a difference. Brett Eaton, an operations manager from York, Pa., stood near the tee box at the first hole and shared an observation from the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in 2015. Woods didn’t play well, Eaton recalled, but some holes were filled with spectators, sometimes up to seven rows of them. But as Eaton stood at the first tee box, there weren’t many people there.
“He’s the main draw, even if he’s not playing well,” said Eaton, 29. “There are larger crowds, the energy, everything.”
He remembered how hectic the Players Championship was in 2015, when Woods finished tied for 69th with a 3-over-par 72 for the tournament.
“It was crazy,” he said. “Twenty percent of the people followed Tiger, and he didn’t even play that well.”
Charles Young, a 19-year-old student at University of Maryland, has played golf since elementary school. He’s trying to walk on for the Terrapins. He feels Woods’s absence, especially because Woods was his favorite golfer growing up. He remembers how much fun it was watching Woods from 2005 to 2008.
“Just seeing those three years, and being African American, it was special,” Young said.
So what’s the difference now?
“Let’s say this hole right here,” Young said, pointing at the No. 9 green, with about 30 people. “If he was there, there would be way more people and they would be so quiet. Everyone would be so focused on him, because he carries a lot of weight.”
Fowler makes a charge
Rickie Fowler had a great start on Sunday, making a blistering charge to the chase the leaders in the final round, and sinking a career-high nine birdies. He shot 5-under-par 65 on Sunday, totaling 5-under-par 275 for the tournament. He finished tied for third, behind Charles Howell III and winner Kyle Stanley.
He started the day at even-par 210 and was seven behind the lead. With a crowded gallery watching his every move, he racked up seven birdies through 13 holes — four straight from holes 7 through 10. He hit a 21-footer for birdie on the par-4 eighth hole.
“I think he just hit his irons better today,” said his caddie, Joe Skovron. “Then he had that aggressive mentality, he was seven down to start the day, and he was aggressive with his irons.”
His magic briefly ended when he bogeyed 11 after burning the right edge on a 5-footer for par. But he gained it back on 12 and 13, with birdies for a total of 5 under through 13. At the time, Fowler’s birdie on 13 left him only one stroke back of the leader, Curtis Luck.
But in a back-and-forth afternoon, Fowler couldn’t collect himself on 14, with a double bogey. It sent Fowler back down the leader board, 3 under through 14 holes and tied for 10th. There were seven double bogeys or worse on 14 throughout the tournament. David Lingmerth, who sat alone atop the leader board on Sunday morning, struggled through his first six holes, bogeying two.
“My goal was to go out and shoot 62, which, if I birdie 14 and close the way I did, that was the number I had in mind,” Fowler said.
He birdied 16 and 18 to close out his round.
Fowler shot an even par on Friday, 2 over par on Saturday and 2 under par on Sunday. Saturday, Fowler said the biggest thing he had to do on Sunday was hit the fairway, a struggle other golfers had griped about during the course of the week.
“A couple bad swings cost me a few shots,” Fowler said, “but a good weekend overall shooting 2 under yesterday when the course was still firm.”
Watney shoots best round of tournament
Nick Watney, who won the 2011 Quicken Loans National, played his best round this tournament on Sunday, shooting 6-under par 64. It was the best score all week. He finished with a three-under-par 277 for the tournament.
On Sunday, he had seven birdies, three straight on holes 1 through 3, before bogeying 4.
“I played great and the week just kind of came together,” said Watney, 36. “Every day I had done some good things and hadn’t scored as well as I would like, but did a lot of good things today.”
Watney said he felt like the improvement to his game had been coming and he did a lot of little things to “mess up” his rounds. Being a former champion of the event, Watney said it was nice to finally be able to play well at this tournament.
Coming into the event, Watney was ranked 117th in the FedExCup standings. With his finish on Sunday, he will get a big bump in points.
“Yeah, I was on a medical at the start of the season,” Watney said. “I got that taken care of, but obviously I want to play as long as I can in the playoffs and stuff. So nice to have a good week. I’ve been making a lot of cuts but finishing well back, so this week, nice little bump and then hopefully carry this momentum forward.”
Watney improved immensely in his putting game on Sunday, and he gives credit to his caddie for noticing a slight flaw in his technique. Watney was coming up and out of his putts a little bit, causing a slight problem.
So how did he fix it? Practice.
“So yesterday we just hit putts for about 10 minutes afterward and I was trying to watch the ball until I hit it with the putter,” Watney said. “It’s really that simple; that’s all I was trying to focus on today.”