It’s been one year since Tiger Woods last won a title, and it’s been much longer since he has seen success in a Major Tournament and specifically the PGA Championship. That drive to prove he’s still good enough to last four days against the best competition seems to be pushing him beyond the injury that cast a doubt over his participation in the final major of the year.
According to Woods, the only pain he’s feeling at the moment is the headache from talking to reports and answering questions about his injury or pain, which caused him to bow out of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational a few days ago. Woods ran a nine-hole practice, which looked quite remarkable considering how badly he seemed to be handling the pain before retiring from that competition.
Woods hasn’t played in Valhalla since 2000, when a 24-year old version of him won the PGA Championship in a playoff against Bob May. It was his third consecutive Major championship win. It was the second of four PGA Championship titles, the next also coming back-to-back: In 2006 and in 2007. He hasn’t won a major since the US Open in 2008, and since that playoff win he has missed six major tournaments over the last six years due to injuries and other issues.
Four months ago Woods had back surgery, alleviating a pinched nerve. He continues to claim that the current injury has nothing to do with that procedure. True or not, that microsurgery made him miss both the Masters and the US Open, returning in June. He missed the cut at the Quickens Loans National, he finished 69th after 72 holes at the Open Championship and seemed to be headed towards a middle of the pack finish before leaving the Bridgestone invitational.
There has been talk about Woods faking the injury in the previous tournament once he realized that this wasn’t going anywhere for him, giving himself a bit more time to prepare for the PGA Championship. Obviously, there’s no way to prove that, but he won’t be the first or last athlete to fake it with other motives in mind. He certainly didn’t look capable of playing in anything after the way he bowed out of the invitational.
Maybe it’s Woods being stubborn, and playing through injury. Three years ago that kind of stubbornness probably caused him some long term damage. It doesn’t really matter at this point. He’s not remotely close to being the favorite. It seems that simply finishing all four days and making the cut will be something of an achievement for someone who is still getting used to being ordinary in a sport he used to rule.