Tiger Woods Withdraws from PGA Championship

Sports

Recovering from leg injuries from a car crash last year, he had struggled at the Masters and now again at the PGA Championship.

TULSA, Okla. — Tiger Woods, struggling in his comeback from severe leg injuries sustained in a car crash last year, withdrew from the P.G.A. Championship on Saturday night.

The decision came hours after shooting a nine-over par 79, the highest score he has recorded during 22 P.G.A. Championship appearances. Yet an unsettling scene of Woods trying to perform a simple pre-round exercise Saturday presaged the interruption of his celebrated return to competitive elite golf.

As Woods walked down an incline alongside a common practice area bunker, his right leg, which was surgically reconstructed 15 months ago with a rod, pins and screws, buckled. Woods nearly collapsed into the sand, but quickly used a golf club and a half step with his left leg to remain upright.

On the golf course, Woods continued to limp and move slowly and stiffly, descending into a tie for last place on the tournament leaderboard at 12-over par. Because his halting gait and deteriorating game was so striking, Woods was asked afterward if he still planned to play in Sunday’s fourth round.

“Well, I’m sore,” he answered. “I know that is for a fact. We’ll do some work and see how it goes.”

Earlier in the event, Woods described how his recovery from golf rounds now includes many hours of ice baths and physical therapy. Saturday, he did not address when he might enter another tournament. The U.S. Open outside Boston begins June 16.

Long after Woods’s round was complete, it was the weather that proved most vexing to his colleagues.

The last time the P.G.A. Championship was played at Tulsa’s Southern Hills Country Club in 2007 temperatures reached 105 degrees. But that was during August in Oklahoma.

The P.G.A. Championship is now contested in May and Saturday’s third round of the event brought temperatures in the 50s, blustery winds and a field unnerved by the taxing conditions.

Advertisement

With shots made unpredictable by swirling gusts, a bevy of golfers jockeyed for the lead, including unheralded Mito Pereira of Chile, who charged to a commanding advantage at the midpoint of his round. But the second-round leader, Will Zalatoris, who has four top 10 finishes in his last five major championships, caught Pereira several holes later.

Then Cameron Young, a young rising star on the PGA Tour, and Bubba Watson, a 43-year-old two-time Masters champion, charged within a stroke of the lead.

When play concluded Saturday evening, Pereira, who is 27 and playing in just his second major golf championship, had confidently, even boldly, regained the top spot on the leaderboard. After a third-round 69, he will enter Sunday’s final round with a three-stroke lead over Zalatoris and Matthew Fitzpatrick of England.

Pereira, after a mid-round stumble, vaulted past the other third-round contenders with consecutive birdies on the 13th and 14th holes. Then, with a packed 18th green grandstand cheering for him, he closed out his day by sinking a 27-foot birdie putt to move to nine-under for the tournament.

While Pereira, who is ranked 100th worldwide, is not a household name in professional golf, he has had three top 20 finishes on the PGA Tour this year and won three times on the Korn Ferry Tour, the tour’s top minor league circuit.

Zalatoris had a bumpy start Saturday, shooting a four-over 39 on the front nine but steadied himself by curing some of his putting woes to shoot a rocky 73.

After bogeying his first two holes, Fitzpatrick was five-under for the rest of his round to shoot 67.

Young, whose father is David Young, the longtime golf professional at Sleepy Hollow Country Club in the suburbs of New York, made a late charge when he eagled the 296-yard par 4 17th hole by driving the green and making a short putt. With four birdies in his round, Young shot 67 and was in fourth place at five-under overall.

After a sparkling front nine, Watson, who knocked his ball into seven bunkers during Saturday’s round, faltered and shot 73 and was tied for seventh.

Woods’s troubles on Saturday were not doubt exacerbated by the Tulsa weather. With a back that has been operated on five times, Woods has not enjoyed playing in cold, damp conditions for more than a decade because it reduces the flexibility and fluidity of his golf swing. He is also still adjusting to modifications to his game required since the operations on his right leg.

Once his round began, it was obvious Woods’s reduced physical capabilities were going to dramatically affect his score. His tee shot on the second hole was driven into a creek and led to a bogey. He recovered with three pars but then bungled the 218-yard par 3 sixth hole. By then, Woods already looked in pain and he was especially having trouble hitting his irons the necessary distances. Several were not on line either.

On the sixth hole, his tee shot was short and left and landed in a water hazard. After a penalty shot drop, his third shot was in the rough just off the green and a subsequent chip that needed to go about 30 yards traveled only half that distance. Two putts later, Woods had a triple bogey.

He then bogeyed six of his next seven holes. Woods appeared to be alternatively embarrassed and exasperated, but marched on. Always the grinder, he rallied for four pars and a birdie in his final five holes to avoid shooting 80.

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

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

Advertisement

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.