Barely able to tie his shoes three days ago, Tiger Woods is ready to tee it up in the PGA Championship.
Woods finally arrived at Valhalla on Wednesday, leaving him enough time to play nine holes on a golf course he has not seen since he won the PGA Championship 14 years ago. He says the back injury that caused him to withdraw Sunday at the Bridgestone Invitational was not related to the pain that required surgery on March 31.
On Wednesday, Woods said his trainer was able to fix the problem, and once he felt he had full range of motion, he was ready to tackle the final major of the year.
Woods easily slipped into golf shoes, and he played nine holes with Davis Love III, Steve Stricker and Harris English without showing a trace of pain. Barring a victory, this likely will be his last tournament for at least six weeks.
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A good performance may lift Woods into contention for a spot in the U.S. PGA Tour’s season-ending FedEx Cup, while boosting his chances of earning a wild-card spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Tom Watson is captain of the Ryder Cup team.
“I’m pain-free,” Woods told reporters after playing an abbreviated practice round. “I’m going to try to go out there and win this event. That’s all I’m focused on.”
Woods played the course’s first nine holes and then continued to walk the back nine with only his putter and a pitching wedge. Woods, who ranks second to Jack Nicklaus’s 18 major titles, will tee off at 7:35 a.m. Thursday with fellow American Phil Mickelson and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, the 2005 and 2008 PGA champions, respectively.
Woods said the injury Sunday wasn’t in the same area as the surgery. After getting therapy at his Florida home, Woods said he made the decision yesterday to play after hitting some practice shots pain-free.
Recovery from back surgery kept Woods out of April’s Masters Tournament for the first time as a professional and the U.S. Open in June. He finished 69th in last month’s British Open, his worst 72-hole result in any of the sport’s four major tournaments.
Woods has won the Masters and PGA Championship four times apiece, while adding three titles each at the U.S. and British Opens.