ST LOUIS: Tiger Woods needed a day off to rest his weary body more than extra work on a course he hadn’t seen in 17 years ahead of the 100th PGA Championship.
The 42-year-old, a 14-time major champion in a comeback season after spinal fusion surgery, tries to end a decade-long major drought starting Thursday at Bellerive Country Club.
“Just for me to be able to have this opportunity again is a dream come true,” Woods said. “I’ve had my share of chances to win this year and hopefully I’ll get it done this week.”
Former world number one Woods, who led on Sunday at last month’s British Open before settling for a share of sixth, opted for recovery after playing last week’s WGC Bridgestone Invitational.
“I needed that day off,” the American said. “I spent a few times in the ice bath just trying to get some inflammation down and just trying to get ready for the rest of the week.
“There are going to be certain days I’m just not going to have the speed and the flexibility and the movement I once did. I’m 42 and I’ve had four back surgeries. So things are going to be different from day-to-day, and it’s just about managing it.”
Woods had not seen the layout since 2001 when a WGC event was cancelled in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. So he was undone when showers cut his Tuesday practice round to five holes.
“We only got in five holes and didn’t really get a chance to see a whole lot,” Woods said. “I’ll have to do some more homework tomorrow and get a good feel for what’s going on.”
Woods has learned to accept limitations and compromises to stay healthy, including a new swing motion to allow for his repaired back.
“It’s just what are my limitations 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,” Woods said.
“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. But having a fixed point in my spine is very different.”
Woods, who hasn’t won a major since the 2008 US Open and hasn’t won any event since 2013, must win this week to take an automatic spot on the US Ryder Cup team, although he has jumped to 20th in only one season accumulating points.
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Asked if he deserved a captain’s pick for next month’s showdown in France, Woods wouldn’t say he was worthy.
“I don’t know. We’ll see,” he said. “I’ve gone from zero to basically 20th in seven months. I’m trending. So that’s all I’m going to say.”
Told that European captain Thomas Bjorn liked him for a spot and said he could still intimidate, Woods replied: “I like my chances in match play.”
They aren’t so bad in stroke play either. Woods led late at Carnoustie before a double bogey-bogey spurt sent him tumbling.
“Leading the Open on the back nine, it felt good. It felt very familiar,” he said. “I felt like I was in control of what I was doing and that felt good. Unfortunately, I just didn’t do it.”