The watch is on again to see if Tiger will play at next month’s U.S. Open, and signs this time point against it after his three-round effort at Southern Hills.
Tiger woods setback

TULSA, Okla. – The temperature was in the high 40s on Sunday morning, and didn’t get much better during the time Tiger Woods would have been at Southern Hills for the final round of the PGA Championship, making his decision to withdraw all the more prudent.
Tiger woods setback

Heat is Tiger Woods’ friend, and it was his misfortune that he ran into cold temperatures for the third round of the Masters last month and again on Saturday here. Those early-morning wake-up calls to prepare for a round of golf are made even more arduous knowing the difficulty in staying loose.

So the good vibes from grinding to make the 36-hole cut with a second-round 69 were quickly erased through the discomfort and struggles of a cold-weather 79 on Saturday – Tiger Woods’ highest score ever at the PGA Championship.

Now what?

It is certainly fair to Tiger wonder if Woods came back too soon, or if he suffered a setback. And without knowing the answers to those questions, next month’s U.S. Open at The Country Club would seem to be in serious doubt.

This is probably a good time for some perspective. Less than two months ago, there was virtually nobody outside of Woods’ circle – aside from the most optimistic or ardent of Tiger followers – who believed he would be back at the Masters. The PGA didn’t even seem possible. If there was any hope for this year, it was the British Open at St. Andrews.

Consider what Woods said in December at the PNC Championship, when told that Matt Kuchar believed his game was at a PGA Tour level: “No, no, no, no. I totally disagree. I’m not at that level. I can’t compete again these guys right now, no. It’s going to take a lot of work to get to where I feel like I can compete with these guys and be at a high level.’’

And then in February at the Genesis Invitational, where he served as tournament host: “Being out here on Tour, you get exposed. And that’s the beauty of this sport, you get exposed. There are no carts and you have to work your way around it, you have to be fit enough to be able to do this sport at a high level. You have to be able to practice at a high level to expect to come out here and win and I have not done any of that.’’

Seven weeks later, Woods was playing in the Masters, where he opened with a 71, struggled on the weekend and called completing 72 holes a success.

Tiger Woods was lowering our expectations while undoubtedly thinking there was a chance. I asked him last week at what point he had it in his mind that the Masters might be a possibility, and Woods danced around a direct answer, but gave some hints as to the difficulty.

He referenced the practice round at Augusta National a week earlier with his son, Charlie, and Justin Thomas.

“I did it but man it hurt for a couple days,’’ he said. “But I was able to do it, and maybe I could work my way into it somehow and just kept pushing and kept hoping that I could somehow figure out a way. I have to endure some uncomfortableness. Even that week as I played practice rounds, I was still trying to figure out ‘can I do this over 72 holes?’ and I was able to do it. Unfortunately I just didn’t have the endurance or the stamina and wished I would have putted better so I would have given myself a chance.

“I’ve put in a lot of hard work with my team, and I believe in them and what they have been able to get me to do. I just have to go out there and obviously do it and hit the golf shots.

“Now, I’ve had to alter my golf swing here and there and practice sessions and work on things, and I’ve had to do a lot of shadow swinging in front of mirrors because I’m just not able to handle impact, but I’ve gotten better and stronger since then, and will continue to improve.’’

Tiger Woods has shown plenty of promise in his game, but as his caddie, Joe LaCava said, his “body is not cooperating.’’ Will it? When? And does Woods need to reassess, take more time and go at this more slowly?

Remember that a year ago at this time, Woods was not walking unaided. He wasn’t that far removed from being in a bed at his home. He may have been in a wheelchair, if not using crutches.

And yet he has made the cut in both major championships this year, a feat all of the following failed to accomplish: Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns, Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Sergio Garcia, Daniel Berger and Louis Oosthuizen.

There’s some firepower in that group, and Tiger Woods did what they could not.

The U.S. Open might be in doubt but the British Open is now six weeks away. Is that enough time to get ready for St. Andrews?

A Tough Week (Mostly) for the Stars

Justin Thomas was the outlier. Ranked ninth in the world heading into the PGA Championship, he came from seven back on Sunday and won a playoff over Will Zalatoris to claim his second major title.

The rest of the top 10 did not fare so well. No. 1-ranked Scottie Scheffler missed the cut. Rory McIlroy finished eighth, but walked away disappointed as he led after the first round and found himself nine shots back starting the day.

No. 2 Jon Rahm was never in the tournament, tying for 48th. No. 3 Collin Morikawa, the 2020 PGA champ, seemingly could not make a putt and tied for 55th. Cam Smith tied for 13th, Patrick Cantlay missed the cut, Viktor Hovland tied for 41st.

McIlroy, after a brief run of glory on the front side with four straight birdies, didn’t make another one and finished with a 68. He did not speak to reporters afterward. Jordan Spieth, a pre-tournament favorite, finished with a 69 to tie for 34th.

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