Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

Tiger Woods’ body will determine if he contends at PGA Championship

By admin May21,2024

LOUISVILLE — With sweat pouring down his face and most of his shirt a darker shade of orange, Tiger Woods spent much of his back nine at the PGA Championship Thursday reaching for a towel on a humid day, but more comfortable than oppressively hot.

And the 15-time major champion was on pace for his best opening round in a major championship in four years before his putter suddenly abandoned him.

Still, despite a pair of three putts to end his day, Tiger was able to smile following his 1-over 72 on the long, but not terribly difficult, Valhalla Golf Course. He finished with three birdies and four bogeys.

The question now is: Will he be smiling Saturday?

“I am getting stronger for sure,” Tiger said. “It’s just that I just don’t play a whole lot of competitive rounds. I haven’t played since the Masters. So it’s a little bit different than being at home and playing a flat Florida course.”

The Jupiter Island resident’s career basically has been limited to majors and the Genesis Invitational since a car accident more than three years ago nearly cost him his right leg, one that now is held together by plates, rods and screws.

And watching him successfully navigate a major championship course for a couple of rounds is not unusual. It’s Tiger bouncing around and having success on the weekend that’s been the issue, and will be scrutinized once again this week … if he makes the cut.

In five majors since the accident, Tiger missed the cut once and has been forced to withdraw after the second or third round twice. He was 60th and 47th in the others.

Tiger’s average score in those five rounds in which he’s played Saturday or Sunday (he withdrew after three rounds at the 2022 PGA) is 78.8. That includes his 82 in the third round at this year’s Masters.

That’s what happens when a battered body prevents you from putting in the necessary work to remain sharp and starts to break down.

“Each day is a little bit different,” Tiger said. “Some days it’s better than others. It’s just the way it is. My body is just that way. Some days, it feels great, and other days, a bit of a struggle.”

Valhalla is not Augusta National, but it still will present its challenges when playing around 7,500 yards, as it is this week. Tiger will have plenty of rest between the first two rounds after teeing off in the first wave Thursday and late Friday. So if his body cooperates, maybe he gets to test it out into the weekend.

Those chances would have been much better, though, if Tiger’s putter cooperated late in his round Thursday.

The greens were not an issue most of the day, with Tiger making more than 94-feet of putts. He drained a 15-footer on No. 12 (his third hole) to save par, an 18-footer on the next hole for his first birdie, a 13-footer on No. 7 for another birdie.

But on No. 8 he blew his long birdie putt 10-feet past the hole and missed the par putt.

On his final hole his birdie putt died 6-feet short of the cup. Once again, he could not get the par putt to drop.

The difference between the satisfaction of a 1-under round and the frustration of a 1-over round.

“I three-whipped the last two holes,” he said. “Wasn’t very good. Bad speed on 8, whipped it past the hole. And 9, hit it short. Hit it off the heel and blocked the second one. So wasn’t very good on the last two holes.”

Another 1-over likely will not be good enough to make the cut.

More: Will Tiger Woods captain 2025 U.S. Ryder Cup team? Here is what PGA of America is saying

With a body that has been through multiple surgeries on his knees and back, and the trauma of the accident that resulted in several more operations, Tiger’s schedule is severely limited. He enters the PGA with five competitive rounds on the year, after just 10 in all of 2023.

“It took me probably three holes to get back into competitive flow again and get a feel for hitting the ball out there in competition, adrenaline, temperatures, green speeds,” he said.

“These are all things that normally I adjust to very quickly, and it just took me a few holes to get into it.”

Jack Nicklaus, the only man with more major championships than Tiger, recently said he has no doubt Tiger “has the ability” to compete. But like everyone else, Nicklaus, who has 18 major titles, wonders if Tiger’s body will allow him to contend.

The answer to that question will be a mystery every time Tiger steps on a course.

Tom D’Angelo is a senior sports columnist and golf writer for The Palm Beach Post. He can be reached at tdangelo@pbpost.com.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Tiger Woods grinds it out in the first round of the PGA Championship

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