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13D AGO

Tiger Woods tempers expectations at PGA Championship

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Body is ‘OK’ but ‘I wish my game was sharper’



    Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Sometimes it’s the question, not the answer, that says the most.

    Tiger Woods took 25 questions for his pre-tournament press conference at the rainy PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on Tuesday, and the most interesting of these was not about how the course fits his game. It was about how the course fits his body.

    “Well, I wouldn't say the walk's that difficult,” Woods said of Valhalla, which will measure some 7,609 yards. “I know it's a long walk, it's a big piece of property. More than anything, just stay out of the rough. This is a big golf course, and if you get in the rough here, yeah, things could get a little bit sore, but if I drive it well and do the things I need to do and what I did 24 years ago, hopefully it works.”

    The winner of the 2000 PGA at Valhalla, the surgically repaired Woods is now 48 and only occasionally teeing it up on the PGA TOUR. And when he does, it takes something extra just to get to the first tee.

    The Grand Slam for Woods in 2024 is something like stretching, massage, chiropractic work, and Icy Hot.

    “He told me that he woke up at like 3:45 this morning just to get ready for the day,” said the amateur Neal Shipley, who played with Woods in the final round of the Masters Tournament last month. “Which is – I got about three hours more sleep than him.

    “He's really grinding and making a big commitment to be out here for everyone.”

    That was the last time we saw Woods in action, and finishing the tournament was its own sort of win. He shot 73-72-82-77 and wound up 60th, last among those who made the cut. In his press conference Tuesday, when he pronounced his health “OK” before adding, “I wish my game was a little bit sharper,” he admitted that his body more or less gave out on the weekend at Augusta National.

    Still, he proved over those first two rounds that he can still compete.

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

    Max Homa, who played with Woods for the first two days at the Masters, agreed.

    “Yeah, his golf game was incredible,” said Homa, who finished T3 at the Masters. “Two days I played with him he hit a great. If he had made anything he would have been right around the lead. So, it was tough draw for him in that we had to play 20-odd some holes the second day. He wasn't limping too bad. So, yeah, I think he's got a decent amount (of competitive shelf life).”

    Woods is the first to admit he is in a very different phase of life these days than he was in 2000, when he beat the pesky Bob May in an aggregate playoff at Valhalla. Woods, whose 82 PGA TOUR wins include 15 major titles, is a golf dad, a course designer, a PGA Policy Board member.

    Playing in a major, he said Tuesday, means something different to him now.

    “I think that I appreciate it more now, just the fact that I don't come out here very often,” he said. “I don't play much, and I'm at home where it's quiet and it's so different to coming out to practice rounds when there's thousands of people out there like it was at Augusta.”

    When he won here at the turn of the century, Woods was in the midst of the Tiger Slam, when he held all four major championship trophies concurrently. He was the center of the golf world, and peers like Ernie Els knew it wouldn’t be long before they were asked about Woods in their own press conferences.

    Now the reverse is true. On Tuesday, one of Woods’ most expansive answers covered the excellence of world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler vis-à-vis No. 2 Rory McIlroy.

    Woods praised them effusively, said McIlroy’s finish is so pretty, “it looks like a statue,” and gave advice to new dad Scheffler (“Get some sleep,” he said).

    Such is the new life of Tiger, whose own kids are all grown up.

    “Yeah, I still feel that I can win golf tournaments,” Woods said. “I still feel I can hit the shots and still feel like I still have my hand around the greens, and I can putt.

    “I just need to do it for all four days,” he added, “not like I did at Augusta for only two.”

    Cameron Morfit is a Staff Writer for the PGA TOUR. He has covered rodeo, arm-wrestling, and snowmobile hill climb in addition to a lot of golf. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.

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