2018 PGA Championship: Tiger Woods needs to get ready in a hurry

2018 PGA Championship: Tiger Woods needs to get ready in a hurry

PGA Tour

2018 PGA Championship: Tiger Woods needs to get ready in a hurry

ST. LOUIS ­– The airhorn seemed to come as a surprise to everyone gathered on the fifth green Tuesday at Bellerive. A group including Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, Kevin Na and Bryson DeChambeau waited out morning weather delays but had to call it quits at 1:15 p.m. ET.

Woods lingered around and hit a few chips from behind the green. At this point, he needs all the reps he can get.

Na whipped his cell phone out to snag a selfie with Woods and the others before the rain really started coming down. The group cut across the sixth tee, then the eighth fairway, then up nine and back to the clubhouse.

Woods took Monday off and was counting on nine-hole practice rounds Tuesday and Wednesday. Now he’ll have to scramble just to get a full 18 in ahead of the 100th PGA Championship in St. Louis.

“There’s going to be quite a few guys trying to get out there to play (tomorrow) and I’m going to be one of them,” Woods said. “Try and get as many holes as I possibly can, but also make sure that I’m ready for an a.m. start on Thursday.”

Woods goes off at 9:23 a.m. ET in Round 1 for the season’s final major with Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy, and it’s hard to know what to expect. His swing looked as good as it has all year at Carnoustie but showed signs of rust at last week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, where he shot 6 over on the weekend and finished T-31 at even par.

He alluded to some wear and tear with three ice baths on Monday to “get some inflammation down,” but he wouldn’t elaborate on that. He gave a typical press conference in that sense, politely answering all questions but never really giving anything away in front of a jam-packed interview room.

He’d obviously rather have been practicing than fielding questions like whether or not he has unfinished business at the PGA Championship after losing the 54-hole lead to Y.E Yang in 2009, but golf is an outdoor sport and these things happen.

“Didn’t really get to see a whole lot,” Woods said of the course. “I’ll have to do some more homework tomorrow and get a good feel for what’s going on the rest of the week.”

It’s imperative he find the fairway more this week than he did at Firestone, with holes like the 521-yard par-4 fourth practically unreachable from the rough. And for a player who loves smooth, fast putting surfaces, he knows the greens won’t be his favorite.

“I don’t think they’re going to be the smoothest greens that we’ve played on, but everyone’s got to play them,” Woods said. “We’re going to have some putts where we hit good putts and they’re going to kind of wobble off line, but then again you can actually put some pretty good heat behind it as well and take out some of the break.”

On a positive note, Woods is still one of the best golf minds in the field and will be able to diagnose these greens on the fly better than others. He also proved earlier this year that he doesn’t need to know a course inside and out to contend – His T-2 at the Valspar Championship came on a course he hadn’t played since 1996.

Woods just hasn’t had a lot of time to practice since the British Open. He took a family vacation after Carnoustie and then went to Akron with fewer reps under his belt than normal. He didn’t build any momentum going into Bellerive, but he does have one swing fresh in his mind.

He described it in the most interesting and insightful answer he gave Tuesday, responding to a question about the bunker shot at 10 in the final round of the British Open. He was leading the tournament but in a bad spot, without much of a look at the green.

Feeling back-nine major pressure for the first time in years, Woods pulled off his best shot of the season and got the ball to the front of the green with a violent, vintage strike.

“I’ll tell you this – at that particular point in time, I thought that was the tournament,” Woods said. “I’m tied for the lead and if I don’t pull it off, it’s going to hit the lip right in front of me and probably stay in the bunker. If I pull it off, this could be the point that turns the entire tournament on its head where I can go ahead and win it. Let’s go ahead and try and pull it off, and I pulled it off. Didn’t win the tournament, but the fact that I was able to hit that shot was pretty special.”

Woods made double bogey on the next hole to fall out of the race, but the way he described the shot at 10 made it seem like he proved something to himself. That he could still hit those types of shots when it mattered most at age 42.

The question is whether he’ll be sharp enough on short prep to give himself the same opportunity this week on the other side of the Atlantic.

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