Ryan Gerard and Nicolai Hojgaard secured Special Temporary Membership on Sunday at the Valero Texas Open.
Gerard, 23, earned the status with a tie for 56th after rounds of 72-72-70-75. The North Carolina resident has made five starts this season, including a solo fourth at the Honda Classic and a tie for 11th at the Puerto Rico Open. He’s missed just one cut.
“I’ve worked my whole life to get to this point and I know this is just the beginning,” Gerard said.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” he added. “It’s been a lot of golf, a lot of travel. Not that I’m complaining because I want to do this for a living. Like, it’s a dream that I get to wake up every day and hit golf balls and get paid to do it if you play well.”
Hojgaard, 22, made his ninth career start and second of the season at TPC San Antonio, where he shot 72-70-69-72 and tied for 28th. A native of Denmark, Hojgaard finished second a week ago at the Corales Puntacana Championship. He made six starts last year and qualified for the PGA Championship and The Open Championship. His only made cut came at St. Andrews.
“It’s a great opportunity and I think we’ll definitely chase it over here going forward,” Hojgaard said. “Honestly I can’t wait to come back and play again.”
Both players now can accept unlimited sponsor exemptions through the 2023 season, including the fall portion.
With Special Temporary Membership status, Gerard and Hojgaard earn a spot in a conditional category on the 2023 TOUR Priority Ranking. This category reshuffles a combination of TOUR members that includes past champions (beyond their exemption) and veteran members with 150 or more cuts made.
The next reshuffle takes place Monday.
Woods gained more than a stroke on the greens Saturday after losing nearly two a day earlier. He has missed seven putts inside 10 feet this week, with five of those misses coming Friday.
“I've always been a person who likes to hook my putts,” Woods said, “so I just tried to feel like I went back to releasing the putter blade more, more right hand, more release. I just hate that blocky feeling which I had yesterday, which I can't stand. So I go back to hooking my putts and it felt like my normal stroke, which was good.”
Last year, Woods didn’t appear to have the energy to compete past the opening two rounds of a tournament. He posted a pair of 78s on the weekend of last year’s Masters after shooting 71-74 in the first two rounds to sit just two shots outside the top 10. After a second-round 69 to make the cut at the PGA Championship, Woods withdrew following a 79 on Saturday at Southern Hills. He didn’t have a chance to play the weekend at The Open Championship after rounds of 78 and 75. Walking is still difficult for Woods, especially after his bout of plantar fasciitis, so it would make sense that Woods’ scores increased as his step count went up. He has countered that trend this week, though being on his feet for more than four hours and walking four miles remains a challenge.
“It's just a matter of whether I can get from point A to point B,” Woods said Saturday. “That's been the struggle part of it. I can hit shots, I can hit balls on the range, I can chip, I can putt. It's just getting from point A to point B has been the biggest challenge.”
The Open was his last official competition before this week. He will always limp between shots and occasionally use a club as a cane, but he said increased abdominal strength has allowed him to generate clubhead speed now that he no longer can use his legs. He is averaging more than 300 yards off the tee while relying on a low cut shot with his driver. The iron play that has always been a hallmark of his game is still a strength.
“His game was really solid. I was quite impressed,” said playing partner Matthias Schwab. “He didn't really hit any bad shots except for maybe on 6, the par 3.”
On the West Coast, players are grouped in threesomes even after the cut and tee off on both 1 and 10. Woods began Saturday’s round with Schwab and Christiaan Bezuidenhout on the 10th tee at 10:12 a.m., just a half-hour before the leaders teed off on No. 1. Because Riviera, which was built at the bottom of a canyon, is one of the tightest pieces of property on TOUR, Woods’ location was easy to discern at all times. Max Homa, who started the day with a one-shot lead, was standing over a birdie putt on the third hole when a loud roar went up about 150 yards away. Woods had made a 25-footer for birdie on the 14th hole. Homa responded by making his own 20-footer.
“It's cool, it's awesome seeing him out here,” said Max Homa, who is in second place after starting the day with a one-shot lead. “I can't believe how well he's playing and how hard he's hitting it. Tiger's Tiger, man. It's just one of those -- he's just a living legend and it's amazing. It's cool to see all the type. He had way more people than we did for a while today, which is pretty awesome.”
Woods began his round by making a 16-footer for birdie on the 10th hole and made the turn in 2 under after that birdie at 14. After climbing the steep hill behind the 18th green, Woods’ round resumed on Riviera’s elevated first tee, which sits 75 feet above the fairway. He hit a 316-yard tee shot into the right rough, then hit his 190-yard approach shot to 3 feet to set up an eagle. It was his first eagle on TOUR since the final round of this event three years ago. He reached 5 under par for the round after holing a 12-foot birdie putt but finished his round with three pars and a bogey at the seventh.
Woods was visibly limping after his post-round interviews. How his body will hold up for another round remains to be seen. But there have been enough promising signs for him to not rule out another start before Augusta National. Woods described himself as “on the sore side” and wanted to see how long it took him to recover from this week before making any decisions.
“We'll go ahead and reassess everything and see where we are, see how I recover from a full tournament,” he said. “I haven't done this in a while. The last time I did it was at The Open Championship, so it's been a while. Hopefully the body will still feel good sometime later next week. As of right now, recovery time will be fun.”