Tiger Woods was supposed to have two great chances this season to notch his first major victory since 2008, but a nagging back injury has prevented him from emulating his past greatness.
After falling well short of contention at Hoylake, where he last captured the Claret Jug in the 2006 British Open, Woods was slated to return to Valhalla Golf Club for this week's PGA Championship.
However, he withdrew during the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday, giving Woods little time to recover for the final major of the season. But Woods says he will tee it up in Louisville, Kentucky. Golf.com passes along Woods' confirmation:
Are you definitely in for tomorrow? Woods: "Yeah." pic.twitter.com/MiC3e6jP5v— Golf.com (@si_golf) August 6, 2014
Golf Channel's Tiger Tracker reveals when Woods decided to play:
Made the decision to play yesterday. Once he made that decision he went to hit balls at home to make sure he could handle it.— GC Tiger Tracker (@GCTigerTracker) August 6, 2014
Woods also spoke about his surgically repaired back and if the injury had anything to do with his return to competition (via Ron Green Jr. of Global Golf Post and Dave Shedloski of Golf World):
Tiger sounded upbeat after playing 9 holes...said back issue at Firestone was unrelated to surgery...."I'm pain free...I feel good"— RonGreenJr (@RonGreenJr) August 6, 2014
Tiger Woods: "It's not the site of the surgery. This is something completely different." Hmm. Said same thing about knee at 2008 US Open.— Dave Shedloski (@DaveShedloski) August 6, 2014
The upcoming tournament and Woods' preparation for Thursday's first round were also part of the discussion (via Golf Channel and Golf.com):
As for the back 9, just one club for Tiger: his putter. He'll walk the back and see the greens in preparation for tomorrow.— Golf.com (@si_golf) August 6, 2014
Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, had previously said on Sunday not to rule Woods out of the PGA Championship.
"Way too early. He has to rest and get treatment and then assess later," said Steinberg in a text message, per ESPN.com's Bob Harig. "Pointless to make that decision now without proper time to give him best chance. Nothing further today, maybe [not] even tomorrow."
Harig described Woods' practice round on Wednesday:
If Tiger is worried about taking it easy... doesn't appear to be the case so far. This warm-up session is like full-out practice.— Bob Harig (@BobHarig) August 6, 2014
Golf Channel's Jason Sobel documented what Woods said as he walked off the course at Firestone on the ninth hole:
Tiger: "Happened on the second hole when I hit my second shot. I fell back into the bunker. Just jarred it. It's been spasming ever since."— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) August 3, 2014
ESPN Stats & Info provided some context for the perils Woods has endured amid an injury-plagued 2013-14 campaign:
If Tiger Woods doesn't play the PGA Champ, it would be the first time since 1994 that he plays fewer than 2 major championships in a year.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 4, 2014
If Tiger Woods doesn't play the PGA Champ, it would be the 1st time since 1995 that he fails to post a top-30 finish in a major in a year.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 4, 2014
Past PGA Tour winner Parker McLachlin was critical of Woods' swing coach, Sean Foley, whose reconstruction of the superstar's swing may have had something to do with his back issues resurfacing:
At some point Tiger's bad back falls squarely on shoulders of the coach who continues to teach him a motion that continually compromises it— Parker McLachlin (@ParkerMcLachlin) August 3, 2014
How many career majors will Tiger Woods wind up with?
Woods is turning 39 in December, and the fact that his back has acted up so often this year leaves his golfing future in doubt. Jack Nicklaus' all-time record of 18 major victories seems as far away as ever for Woods at this juncture in his career, with all the uncertainty his physical health has created.
He has had plenty to play for since his return to competition at the Quicken Loans National in late June. Two majors at venues he'd conquered before were on the horizon, as well as the FedEx Cup playoffs and the chance to be a captain's pick for the USA Ryder Cup team.
Regardless of what happens in the coming years, Woods' rather swift return to the course from back surgery will continue to be questioned. Woods has previously pushed the boundaries of his physical limitations by playing in tournaments when he wasn't ideally fit to do so. Part of that stems from the fierce determination that's made him one of the all-time greats.
Now it may be coming back to haunt Woods as he prepares to enter his 40s. With prohibitive PGA Championship favorite Rory McIlroy and a slew of young, talented players coming into their own, winning more majors will be even harder for Woods in his pursuit of Nicklaus' record.