- The Washington Times - Monday, July 6, 2009

Notah Begay III, a teammate of Woods at Stanford.

Back at the turn of the century, Begay had a bright future. He made more than $3 million in his first two seasons on Tour, played the weekend in all four majors in 2000 and cracked the top 20 in the world ranking. Begay was also a member of the victorious U.S. Presidents Cup that same year, partnering with Woods in four-ball and foursomes and beating Retief Goosen in singles play.

Then chronic back injuries derailed Begay’s career; he has made the cut less than 40 percent of the time since 2001. So even though Sunday’s round of 75 was a disappointing finish to the week, just making the cut was an accomplishment.

“You take any kind of positive momentum you can get,” said Begay, who has fallen all the way to No. 1,375 in the world. “For 13 holes [today], I probably played my best golf of the year.”

That might sound strange - after all, Begay was 2 over with no birdies in that stretch - but there were a lot of positive signs. He had five birdie putts inside of 15 feet but missed all of them, and he also made two tough midrange par-savers on the front nine. He finished tied for 66th at 9 over.

All in all, Begay was encouraged by the state of his game. Before the AT&T; National, he had missed seven of his past eight cuts.

“It’s on the upswing,” he said. “This is a tough place to work on your game, but considering I drove it real well all week and putted well, I’m pretty happy with where things are at.”

Better yet, his back pain isn’t nearly as bad as it was earlier this decade. Begay is on pace to compete in 20 PGA Tour events for the first time in five years.

“I still fight a few things, residual stuff, as a result of the back,” he said. “But I’m hoping to work through all that by the end of the year and play 100 percent healthy next year.”

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