Tiger Woods is just one day removed from re-aggravating his back injury and three days away from the year's final major. But the short turnaround hasn't yet forced him out of Thursday's opening round of the 2014 PGA Championship.
After grabbing at his back on the ninth hole in the final round of Sunday's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Woods withdrew from the tournament—his third appearance since a March 31 back surgery that kept him out of the year's first two majors.
But with one opportunity left to end his major drought before 2015, Woods hasn't called off his playing in this weekend's tournament, per ESPN SportsCenter:
THIS JUST IN: Tiger Woods' agent says Tiger has not ruled out playing in this week's PGA Championship.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 4, 2014
ESPN's Bob Harig added more:
In a text message to ESPN.com on Monday, Mark Steinberg said it was too early to determine whether Woods would play in the year's final major.
"Way too early. He has to rest and get treatment and then assess later," he wrote. "Pointless to make that decision now without proper time to give him best chance. Nothing further today, maybe [not] even tomorrow."
The remainder of Woods' season was very much in question before he even took to the course at WGC-Bridgestone. He was cut in his first tournament back from surgery and finished 69th in the British Open before a lethargic performance at Firestone Country Club that was cut short by Sunday's injury.
Just as well, Woods has yet to etch his place on the U.S. Ryder Cup team and will likely need a captain's pick from Tom Watson in order to join the Americans in next month's event.
Watson remains firm that he wants a healthy and effective Woods on the team, but that's far from guaranteed as told by his comments, per ESPN.com news services.
"Tiger would be a great addition to our team," Watson said. "As I've said all along, I would pick Tiger Woods if he's healthy and playing well. This doesn't bode well right now. I just hope that maybe it's just an isolated problem that he can turn around and possibly play this week at the PGA."
As if there's any ideal situation to deal with a serious back injury such as Woods', he's in quite the bind as he figures out how to end his golf year.
Only four days separate his Sunday withdrawal from Thursday's opening round, and failing to appear in the PGA Championship could leave him out of time to prove he's worthy of a Ryder Cup spot. At the same time, rushing himself back for the PGA only to continue struggling—or continue grimacing—would be a nightmare scenario.
With that in perspective, the 14-time major champion is having his team prepare for action this weekend at Valhalla Golf Club, per WDRB-Louisville's Mike Lacett:
Tiger Woods is not at PGA championship now but a PGA official told me his caddy Joe LaCava is scouting the course. That is a good sign— Mike Lacett (@mikelacett) August 4, 2014
Play it safe, and Woods could lose any chance of the Ryder Cup. Roll the dice, and he risks further injuring himself.
With all of that said, there still lies an opportunity for Woods to miss the year's final major and still make his return in time to get picked by Watson.
Should Tiger Woods play in the PGA Championship if not fully healthy?
Three PGA Tour events separate the PGA Championship from the Ryder Cup. Should Woods need more than a few days to recover, he could take the next two tournaments off before returning for The Barclays on Aug. 21—giving him nearly three weeks to recover.
Strong performances there and the following weekend at the Deutsche Bank Championship on Aug. 29 could give Woods all the momentum he needs to force Watson's hand at picking him. Of course, that's assuming he gets back to health and good form—neither of which is a guarantee at the moment.
Tiger Woods' return from back surgery hasn't quite gone as planned, and there's no use in him rushing himself back to the course if his nagging issues remain.