Tiger Woods stuck on ‘the bogey train’ at US PGA – but for how much longer? | Tiger Woods

Word was relayed before Tiger Woods had even completed his third round at this US PGA Championship. The 46-year-old would not be undertaking standard media duties, with his management doubtless fearing Woods would score in the 80s for only the third time in his major championship career. Woods was spared that ignominy – a birdie at the 15th and the brave saving of par at the last allowed him to post 79 in his 79th US PGA Championship round – but this was still a grim scene in Tulsa for golf’s returning icon.

As Webb Simpson was piecing together at 65, the scale of physical impairment to Woods on a cold morning was painfully obvious. So much so, in fact, that he refused to even offer a guarantee about returning for round four during brief questioning with a pool reporter. “Well, I’m sore,” said Woods. “I know that is for a fact. We’ll do some work and see how it goes.”

Woods was now 12 over by for the tournament. It was incredible to think that 16 hours earlier he had stood on a podium and asserted he could win this very event. It sounded flawed then, as if Woods has to publicly convince himself of a necessity to retain lofty goals. Placed in context of his dismal third round, it appeared plain daft.

“I just didn’t play well,” he added. “I didn’t hit the ball very well and got off to not the start I needed to get off to. I thought I hit a good tee shot down the 2nd and ended up in the water. I just never really got any kind of momentum on my side.

“I couldn’t get off the bogey train. I didn’t do anything right. I didn’t hit many good shots. Consequently I ended up with a pretty high score.”

The bigger picture felt impossible to ignore. This marks just Woods’s second event since he was hauled from the wreckage of his car in California last February. There was a risk of amputation to his lower right leg. A year ago, he was in a wheelchair. The making of cuts at both the Masters and the US PGA – many of the world’s top players managed neither – is a serious achievement.

Tiger Woods plays his second shot from the 9th fairway during the second round
Tiger Woods has drawn the crowds at Southern Hills but his good day two gave way to a poor day three. Photograph: Orlando Ramirez/USA Today Sports

This, however, is Tiger Woods. He lives by different standards. Woods closed at Augusta National last month with back-to-back rounds of 78. There, as here at Southern Hills, poor golf combined with poor movement on the weekend. Woods has already stated he will play at the Open in St Andrews in July, with the US Open to come at Brookline in June. If both of those majors follow a similar pattern to events in Georgia and Oklahoma, it is far from inconceivable Woods will revisit the extent to which he is willing to push his body. He has, of course, earned the right to make such decisions himself.

Shaun Norris, who played in Woods’s company, offered both sympathy and strands of hope for the future. “He’s such a phenomenal player,” said Norris. “You feel so sorry for him having to go through this. But then again, you also see the type of person that he is; that he grinds through everything and pushes himself, even all the bread and that. It’s not easy to see a guy like him have to go through that and struggle like that.

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“He’s swinging it nicely, and I think he’ll be back once he gets back to normal health and sorts out all the problems. The determination that the guy has, I mean, it’s phenomenal. You can see he was battling just today to get the ball out of the hole from time to time, even to bend out to put the ball on the tee; but pushing through it and getting all the focus on at the right times and on the shots is phenomenal.”

Woods was tied 76th and at the foot of the field as he began recovery work. Nevertheless, he was far from alone in producing a high third-round score. Billy Horschel shot 77. Jon Rahm could fare no better than 76. Robert MacIntyre played his first 12 holes in nine over par. Not that you felt such statistics would provide Woods with much solace.

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