Tiger Woods today – courtesy of PGA of America
Tiger Woods is preparing for his 19th PGA Championship this week, four of the previous 18 which he has won, and ahead of Thursday’s start at the Bellerive Country Club in St Louis he fielded a wide range of questions from the media.
Woods last win at the PGA Championship came in 2007 when defeating Woody Austin at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa although he did also finish runner-up in 2009 after returning from knee surgery when being run down by Y.E. Yang.
Woods form in 2018 has given strong indications that a fourth PGA Championship and 15th major title is not beyond him this week and, as so often been the case since he turned professional, Woods’ appearance in the media centre was the most anticipated and attended.
Woods has not played the golf course at Bellerive since playing an exhibition clinic in 2001 ahead of the WGC Championship which was subsequently cancelled due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
In 2008 when the only other PGA Tour event since (The BMW Championship) was played Woods was undergoing recovery from the knee surgery he undertook after his stunning 2008 US Open victory.
“I literally haven’t step foot on this golf course since that week in 2001,” said Woods today. “Didn’t get up here pre British Open, and yesterday I took the day off.
“So today we only got in five holes and didn’t really get a chance to see a whole lot, but I only remember a couple of the holes, but I didn’t really remember the first five that I played today. And so I’ll have to do some more homework tomorrow and get a good feel for what’s going on for the rest of the week.”
While Woods believes he can contend and possibly win this week he is happy just to be back competing again in the manner he has in 2018.
“Well, just the fact that I’m playing the TOUR again, it’s been — just for me to be able to have this opportunity again is — it’s a dream come true.
“I said this many times this year, I didn’t know if I could do this again, and lo and behold, here I am. So just coming back and being able to play at this level and compete — I’ve had my share of chances to win this year as well, and hopefully I’ll get it done this week.”
When asked what part of the come-back has been the most difficult – the mental or physical side of the game he was quick to answer.
“Well, definitely more physical. I know how to play the game of golf. It’s just what are my limitations are going to be. And as the year has progressed, I’ve learned some of those things. Certainly can’t do what I used to do 10, 15 years ago, but I’m still able to hit the majority of my shots, and I’ve had to learn a golf swing that is restricted.
“I’ve never had a spinal restriction before, and I played all those years without it. Now, I’ve had a bum knee most of those years, but I could wheel it around that. But having a fixed point in my spine is very different.”
A question came from an Australian journalist regarding the expectation on Jason Day and whether or not Day has over or underachieved in terms of major championships.
“Well, it’s not easy to win major championships. What he’s done, and I think that — I think Jason said it best is that he should be very proud of that he was able to win a major championship after having a family.
“That’s a very different thing. Also, the struggles and the things that he had to endure and his upbringing, and he’s fought tooth and nail to get to where he’s at, and he should be very proud of winning a major championship because it’s not easy to do.”
Woods has missed only two of thirteen cuts in 2018 and with top six finishes in two of his last three starts including when hitting the front during the final round of the Open Championship then perhaps his chances adding that long awaited 15th major are not as unrealistic as some might have predicted earlier this year.
His last of fourteen majors came just over ten years ago and if he was to ‘get it done’ this week then the 16th 17th and 18th to match Jack Nicklaus’ great record are perhaps not as wild a dream as was being suggested six months ago.
Reflecting his standing in the game’s history, Woods, despite being ranked only 51st in the world, will tee it up with the world number 2 and 5 this week when he joins Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy at 8.23 am on Thursday.