Tiger Woods Leaves PGA Championship Early as Back Pain PersistsMichael Buteau and Erik Matuszewski
Tiger Woods left the PGA Championship after two days as his ailing back prevented him from qualifying for weekend play for just the fourth time in a major tournament as a professional.
Woods, who counts four PGA Championship titles among his 14 major victories, was 6 over par after shooting consecutive rounds of 3-over 74 at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky. The cut at the season’s final major was 1 over.
“I tried as hard as I could,” Woods said. “That’s about all I got.”
Woods, who showed signs of discomfort in his surgically repaired back early in yesterday’s round, said the injury flared up on the practice range.
“It was sore,” he said. “No doubt it was sore. It went out on me on the range. I just had to play through it.”
The 38-year-old Woods didn’t announce he’d play in the PGA Championship until the day before the opening round, having pulled out of last week’s Bridgestone Invitational during the final round because of back spasms. He had surgery to repair a pinched nerve in his back in March and has struggled since returning less than three months later.
Woods, who said his back was stiff after the first round, grimaced after hitting a driver on the seventh hole yesterday and then walked gingerly and winced after several other shots throughout the round. He opted to continue playing and finished 15 strokes behind leader Rory McIlroy.
Stiffness in his back prevented Woods from taking his usual swing. He often abbreviated his backswing to prevent aggravating it more.
“I can’t get the club back,” he said. “It throws everything off. I can’t get anywhere near the positions that I’m accustomed to getting to. I can’t do it. I’ve got to rely on timing, hands and hopefully I can time it just right.”
The previous time Woods missed a cut at a major was at the 2011 PGA Championship, his second tournament back after being sidelined four months with knee and ankle injuries. He also missed the cut at the 2009 British Open and 2006 U.S. Open, as well as the 1996 Masters Tournament as an amateur.
After missing the season’s first two majors -- the Masters and U.S. Open -- while recovering from the surgery, Woods failed to make the cut at the Quicken Loans Invitational in June. Woods at the time said he would have skipped the event if it didn’t benefit his foundation.
Woods then finished 6 over par and in 69th place at last month’s British Open, his worst 72-hole result in a major.
Following last week’s withdrawal, Woods didn’t arrive at Valhalla until the day before the tournament began, yet said he was pain-free following a practice round.
After a three-putt double-bogey at the par-4 sixth hole yesterday, Woods grimaced in pain and reached for his lower back after hitting driver off the tee at the par-5 seventh. He had to hit the next shot out of a muddy bog, winced when he hit his third shot to the left of the green and then flubbed a chip that came up short of the putting surface. Woods gingerly took the ball out of the cup after making a bogey on the hole.
Phil Mickelson, who played in the group with Woods and Ireland’s Padraig Harrington for the first two rounds, said he didn’t notice Woods’s struggles.
“I just noticed that really on the greens the ball wasn’t going in the hole,” said Mickelson, who is three shots behind McIlroy. “He hit it a lot better today than he did yesterday. I didn’t notice him hurting, but it’s never fun when the ball is not going in the hole.”
Woods made pars on the next two holes, wincing after his approach to the ninth green. The ninth hole is adjacent to the clubhouse, yet Woods continued on and made five straight pars to start the back nine before his first birdie of the round, a 9-footer at the 15th hole. He followed it with a bogey at the 16th hole, where his approach shot was short of the green, and closed with a birdie at the par-5 18th.
“It’s very frustrating,” Woods said. “Any time you have to sit out because of surgery and to deal with the things I’ve had to deal with this year, it’s no fun.”
Woods won the PGA Championship the last time it was held at Valhalla Golf Club in 2000. With the latest setback, his winless drought at major championships now extends to 20 dating back to the 2008 U.S. Open. He remains four behind Jack Nicklaus’s record total of 18 major titles.