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Woods in a better place heading into this PGA Championship


The course is one Tiger Woods is aware of nicely and the place he has successful recollections. The PGA Championship is a main he has received 4 occasions, greater than anybody besides Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen.

Woods discovered final yr that brings no assure of enjoying nicely.

Coming off the deep feelings of a Masters victory that capped his outstanding comeback, Woods lasted solely two days at Bethpage Black and missed the reduce.

He mentioned Tuesday he’s in a a lot better place on the TPC Harding Park.

Never thoughts that Woods has performed just one match — a tie for 40th on the Memorial — in the final six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and his personal restricted schedule. The largest distinction was exhibiting up on Sunday in the sunshine to play 18 holes at Harding Park, adopted by 9 holes Monday as fog crept by the cypress bushes and the temperature plunged into the 50s.

A yr in the past, he performed 18 holes a week earlier than the PGA Championship and solely 9 holes in the three days resulting in the opening spherical. This yr, his strategy seems extra critical.

“After I won the Masters, it was a bit of a whirlwind,” Woods mentioned. “We got a chance to go to the White House and meet with our president. I celebrated winning the Masters for quite some time. Came to Bethpage and played awful, and felt like Brooks (Koepka) beat me by like 30 shots in two days.” It wasn’t that unhealthy. Koepka pipped him by solely 17 and went on to win a second straight Wanamaker Trophy.

“My game is better than it was going into that PGA,” Woods mentioned, “and hopefully, I can put it together this week.” They have been encouraging phrases, not fairly to the extent he shared about a few previous majors. Woods mentioned that solely 3 times in the 15 majors he received did he notice “all I had to do was keep my heartbeat going and I was going to win.” One was his 12-shot victory in the 1997 Masters. The others have been his 15-shot win at Pebble Beach in 2000 and his eight-shot win at St. Andrews in 2000.

“My game was clicking on all cylinders for maybe the week prior. The week of it, got a little bit better and just had to maintain it the rest of the week,” he mentioned.

“Those were the rare exceptions.” He can’t predict how his surgically repaired again will really feel tomorrow, a lot much less for a whole week. And he hasn’t competed sufficient these days to get a true sense of how he’ll carry out.

Woods simply is aware of will probably be quiet. This is the primary main with out spectators. The ambiance is nothing new for gamers who’ve been again at work for the final two months on the fan-free PGA Tour. The stakes are increased now with a main, irrespective of how silent it may be.

“The atmosphere will not be the same, and I can say from experience,” Jon Rahm mentioned.

“You’re coming down the stretch and you’re hitting some shots and you don’t know what’s going on, you don’t know what the people in front of you are doing. And you’re hitting shots into the green and you don’t know how close they can be. It’s very odd down the stretch.”

It wasn’t something like that when Woods received at Harding Park in 2005, beating John Daly in a World Golf Championship that felt like a rock live performance with two of the most important attracts in golf — one predictable, the opposite not a lot — in a playoff. It was so loud that Woods recalled being half-deaf from the screaming.

And now there are solely silent expectations, for him and so many others.

For the second straight yr, Koepka involves Northern California with a probability to win the identical main three years in a row, a feat achieved by solely six gamers in the 160-year historical past of the majors. He was runner-up at Pebble Beach final summer season in the U.S. Open. Now he’s the two-time defending champion for the PGA, and he discovered some type final week with a runner-up end in a World Golf Championship.

“My game feels like it’s in really, really good shape right now,” he mentioned.

“Every day is a lot more comfortable. I’m excited. This is a big-boy golf course.” Harding Park at 7,251 yards feels lengthy at sea stage, with heavy air and marine layer so thick that the solar is a rumor. The PGA Championship has by no means been identified for its sweaters. Woods mentioned he was on the vary Monday listening to gamers who have been in Memphis, Tennessee, final week speaking in regards to the distinction in how far the ball was going.

The cool air will be a difficulty for Woods, who has had 4 again surgical procedures and has struggled at occasions in the coolness.

His again acted up in the chilly of Riviera in Los Angeles in February, main him to take off a few weeks, after which the pandemic shut down golf. Then once more, his again didn’t really feel proper in the July warmth of Ohio for a few days. That’s one space of his sport Woods can’t management.

“I know I won’t have the same range of motion as I would back home in Florida where it’s 95 every day. That’s just the way it is,” Woods mentioned. “I think the weather forecast is supposed to be like this all week — marine layer, cool, windy, and we’re all going to have to deal with it.”

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