Tiger Woods produced a few premieres on Saturday, both of which are no reason for a fist pump. He scored his all-time highest score in the PGA Championshipand later retired from a major for the first time in his pro career.
Hours after limping to a 9-over-79 in the third round at Southern Hills, Woods notified the PGA of America of his withdrawal.
Anyone who watched the staggering footsteps of a right leg injured in a car accident 15 months ago should not have been surprised. Woods declined media interviews after his round, speaking only to a pool reporter.
He was asked if days like this – high pain, high score – had made him question the process it takes to play and whether he would serve on Sunday.
“Well, I’m sore. I know that’s a fact,” he said. “We’ll do some work and see how it goes.”
The PGA of America announced his retirement after the end of the third round. Woods was 21 shots behind Mito Pereira of Chile, who goes into the finals with a three-shot lead.
For Woods, attention now turns to next month’s US Open. Making the cut at the Masters for the first time since the car crash in Los Angeles in February 2021 and competing against the best, he said he would be at the British Open in St Andrews in July.
He didn’t mention the PGA Championship or the US Open to assess his recovery. But he traveled to Southern Hills in the weeks leading up to the PGA and said he feels better than he did at the Masters.
That only lasted so long.
Even if he grimaced at times, Woods showed his most convincing golf game Friday afternoon as he rallied to make the cut with a series of clutch putts and short-game sorcery.
Woods has endured pain throughout his career, more memorable being the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines, which he won with a double stress fracture in his left leg and torn ligaments in his left knee, which required surgery at the end of the season.
But on Saturday, as he cautiously strolled down a course soaked by half an inch of rain early in the morning, he had reason to question whether it was worth making the cut.
“I didn’t do anything right,” Woods said after making a 5-foot par putt to break the 80 on the 18th. “I didn’t hit a lot of good shots. As a result, I ended up with a pretty high score.”
It wasn’t his worst in a major. There was that 81 at the 2002 British Open in the raging wind and bitter cold of Muirfield that ended his hopes of a Grand Slam. He had an 80 at the 2015 US Open in Chambers Bay while recovering from the first of five back surgeries.
That was painful to watch, not just the sloppy play with wedges and two beach balls.
Much like the weekend at the Masters, his first competition since the February 2021 car accident that mutilated his right leg, the limp became more pronounced as the day progressed.
And the weather — the high 50s compared to a heat index approaching triple digits earlier in the week — wasn’t helping.
“You’re so sorry he has to go through this,” said Shaun Norris, the South African, who played with Woods in front of a large gallery but certainly not on the scale of the last two days.
“But then again, you see the kind of person he is, he’s grinding his way through everything and pushing himself, even all the pain and that,” Norris said. “It’s not easy to see a guy like him going through this and struggling like that. He’s swinging it well and I think he’ll be back once he’s back to normal health and all issues sorted out.”
Woods decided not to speak to the media but to give a pool reporter a few thoughts. He didn’t get into one of the clear problems, namely distance control. Whether the ball didn’t go as far because of the cold or its speed was slower than he thought, there were two instances where Woods was stunned to see where his ball had landed.
One was on the par 3 sixth hole when Woods’ shot not only fell short but also hit the water. He put his next shot short into the shaggy collar, missed a chip and walked away with a triple bogey.
And that was just the beginning.
Woods made five straight bogeys from the ninth hole. One of them was on the 11th par 3 when he posed over an 8 iron only to see it land short – well short. He looked back at his caddy and said, “That’s just before the bunker!”
His pitch up the hill had so much pace that he ran across the green and down the slope, and he had to do a 4-foot to bogey away. This was a hole a similar distance up the hill from a little further away on the top shelf of a green. The pen was in front.
And then, on the par-5 13, when a brave play to go from the first rough into a stiff wind across the green seemed to pay off, his pitch from 100 feet went 35 feet wide of the pin and off the green . A probable birdie turned into a bogey.
“Couldn’t get off the bogeyman,” he said.
Even when it seemed hopeless and there were moments when it seemed like his right knee would buckle, Woods rarely rushed a shot or putt.
The only bright spot was a 35-foot birdie putt on the 15th, and Woods forced a smile as he jabbed his right index finger in the air to mark his first birdie of the day.
It was also his only one.
He talked about needing a hot lap on Friday and that wasn’t available to him on a cold day. He finally decided it wasn’t worth going through again.
Associated Press reporting
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