Tiger Woods says body ‘OK’ ahead of his third PGA at Valhalla

Tiger Woods has returned to compete at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., for a third time, with this week’s PGA Championship destined to land somewhere in the middle of where his first two ended.

In 2000, Woods authored one of his more memorable major titles when he outlasted Bob May in a final-round duel that included a three-hole playoff.

In a scene that has come to define Woods’ unwavering determination, the 15-time major champion marched behind his long putt on the first playoff hole at Valhalla, with a pointed index finger that demanded the ball go into the hole. It obliged.

When Woods tapped in his short winning putt to seal the second consecutive of an eventual four PGA Championship titles, he offered a trademark spinning fist pump.

“It was a fun week and unbelievable moment, really,” Woods said Tuesday.

Woods touched on the passing of the torch that occurred in that 2000 event as he played his first two rounds with Nicklaus, who was playing in his final PGA Championship. Nicklaus failed to make the cut.

There also was Woods’ quest for his third consecutive major title that year after winning the U.S. Open and Open Championship.

Woods not only became the first to win three majors in a calendar year since Ben Hogan in 1953, he would also be three-quarters through a run of four consecutive titles. He won the Masters in 2001 to make it four majors in four tries in an accomplishment that would be dubbed the “Tiger Slam.”

“Well, I just remember the pressure I felt,” Woods said of his quest to match Hogan. “…The summer was a whirlwind. I was playing well.”

But with the ups, there were the downs. Woods’ appearance in the 2014 PGA at Valhalla was marked by back issues as he missed the cut at 6 over par. He already had undergone one back procedure at that point and his spine was ultimately fused.

Injury issues were only beginning to catch up with a player who transcended golf.

“Coming into ‘14, I wasn’t feeling very good,” Woods said. “I’m always going to feel soreness and stiffness in my back, but that’s OK. I just need other body parts to start feeling better.”

Where he can take his game this week is anybody’s guess. His single-car accident in February 2021 and subsequent major surgery on his right leg have left him a part-time participant on tour.

This week will be Woods’ third tournament of the year. He withdrew from the Genesis Open near Los Angeles in February after one round because of illness and made the cut at the Masters last month before finishing 60th at 16 over par. He was last among all competitors who played all four rounds.

“Yeah, my body’s OK. It is what it is,” Woods said. “I wish my game was a little bit sharper. I don’t have a lot of competitive reps so I’m having to rely on my practice sessions and getting (rehabilitation) stuff done either at home or here on site.

“But at the end of the day, I need to be ready mentally and physically come Thursday. And these (early) days of practicing at the golf course … get all that stuff done early so I can focus on literally playing and plotting my way around.”

The crowds remain large for Woods, even as his level of play has diminished. But he doesn’t look at his appearances at majors as merely symbolic. Woods remains steadfast that he can still win tournaments.

“I can still hit shots,” Woods said. “It’s getting around that is more of the difficulty I face on the day to day, and the recovery of either practice or pushing myself in competition. You saw it at Augusta. I was right there after two days and didn’t do well on the weekend.”

Even as Woods squeezes out as many competitive rounds as his leg will allow, he is actively planning for the future.

Aside from business interests, Woods still is paying some mind to his competitive side. He could wind up as the next United States captain at the 2025 Ryder Cup, which is set to take place at Bethpage Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y.

“We’re still talking,” Woods said. “There has been nothing that has been confirmed yet. We’re still working on what that might look like and also whether or not I have the time to do it. I’m dedicating so much time to what we are doing with the PGA Tour. I don’t want to (take) the role of captaincy if I can’t do it.”

–Field Level Media