MEDINAH, Ill. – There was no hint of injury and nary a grimace. Many shots were hit with force, all chip shots and putts with touch. From the first tee through the 18th green in Wednesday’s BMW Championship pro-am at Medinah Country Club, Tiger Woods walked and played without restriction.
With the skies bright and Woods on the cheerful side, it was a far different atmosphere than last Friday when he woke up to back pain and was forced to withdraw from the Northern Trust in New Jersey with an oblique strain.
“It was nice to take those days off, and I had to just let it calm down and get a bunch of treatment on it, and it feels so much better,” Woods said of his back. “I played nine today, played the front nine, and played well, which was nice to see, nice to feel. Definitely doesn’t feel like it did on Friday, that’s for sure.”
Woods said his latest injury was due to his swing, as he has made minor tweaks and changes throughout the year to protect his back.
“The forces have got to go somewhere, and unfortunately when I make any kind of tweaks and changes to my swing, it’s like a new body part is aching,” Woods said. “I can’t play around the back like I used to, and unfortunately things flare up.”
After shooting 75 in last week’s first round of the Northern Trust, his back area flared up and he withdrew for the first time in a tournament since he returned following spinal fusion surgery in April 2017. Woods didn’t decide to play this week until Tuesday morning and flew to Chicago a few hours later. He received treatment and putted for 45 minutes.
Woods didn’t hit a full shot since withdrawing from the Northern Trust until Wednesday morning. He’s scheduled to tee off in Thursday’s first round at 12:54 p.m. (ET) alongside C.T. Pan and Billy Horschel.
Woods did stop hitting full shots after he blistered a drive on the par-5 10th. It was a precautionary approach more than one taken out of necessity, for after flowing through the front nine as the first group off, the pace of play slowed considerably as Woods’ group caught up with those groups who began play on the 10th.
He didn’t want to hit a full shot, wait an extended period of time and then hit another full shot. Instead, he putted on every hole on the back nine, hit half-wedges to a few greens and chipped extensively and worked on his bunker play.
Still, is Woods, who won the PGA Championship in 1999 and 2006 at Medinah, sharp enough to compete this week? He stands 38th in the FedExCup Playoffs with the top 30 moving on to the Tour Championship, the season finale. Woods needs to finish at least 11th to move on to East Lake, where he won last year’s Tour Championship, his first win since 2013.
Since winning the Masters in April, he has played just 13 rounds of golf and missed cuts in the PGA Championship and British Open. But his body willing, Woods will do what he can to get to Atlanta.
“Things just pop up,” he said. “That’s been one of the biggest challenges coming back from last year. You saw I’m making tweaks and changes trying to play around this back and trying to be explosive and have enough rest time and training time. That’s been the biggest challenge of it all.
“This week is no different. I’m trying to win this tournament just like anybody else in this field and trying to get to East Lake and trying to get to a place where a lot of things changed for me last year, and hopefully I can make that happen.”