Eubanks: Will Woods cap off biggest comeback?
If you had to label Tiger Woods' relationship with the PGA Championship, it would be his comeback major. After an eventful Friday, he's in position to cap off his biggest career comeback yet.
By Steve Eubanks, PGA.com
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- He has won them all in memorable fashion. But if you had to put a label on Tiger Woods’ relationship with the PGA Championship, it would most likely be known as his comeback major.
After his recording-setting 1997 win at the Masters, Woods went through the first set of swing changes. For two years he tinkered and toiled until it finally clicked. His comeback at the 1999 PGA Championship at Medinah began an avalanche of victories unlike anything ever witnessed in the game.
The 2000 PGA at Valhalla was a comeback win. Even though he started the day tied for the lead, Tiger fell behind before rallying to beat Bob May in a playoff and become the first man since Ben Hogan to win three majors in a season.
After that he changed his swing again and lost his No. 1 world ranking to Vijay Singh. But when the new swing rounded into form, Tiger put an emphatic exclamation point on his comeback by winning back-to-back PGA Championships in 2006 and 2007.
Now, four years removed from his last major, with yet another new swing, Tiger has played himself into position for another possible comeback at the PGA.
His 70 was one of only five under-par rounds on a day when the average score on the Ocean Course was 78.
“I thought going out today, anything even par or better was going to be a good score,” Woods said. “That was my goal. So I went out today and I accomplished that.”
How hard was it out there? The wind blew between 15 and 25 miles an hour all day and scores in the 90s outnumbered those in the 60s by a two-to-one margin.
Vijay Singh had the low round of the day, an early 69, and said, “It's one of the tougher conditions I've ever played. And put this golf course in the middle of all that, it becomes even more brutal.”
Trevor Immelman plugged along, shot even par and jumped 24 spots into a tie for eighth. But all he could say afterward was, “It’s brutal out there. It’s really, really hard.”
Keegan Bradley wasn’t off the course 10 minutes before tweeting, “Hardest golf course/day I’ve ever played.”
“I was blown all over the place,” Tiger said. “We’ve played in wind like this (in the Open Championship) when we've played links golf, but that’s no big deal because you can bump the ball on the ground. You can throw it 30 yards short of the green and let it roll on the green. Here, you just can't do it. You've got to throw the ball in the air. That's what makes it difficult. It's a linksy type of feel, but you can't use the ground at all.
“And then when you get around the greens, some of these shots would be nice to be able to bump it but you can't do that either, because it's too sticky. You might be able to play some kind of driving one-hop stop shot, but even then you're taking a chance.”
Difficult conditions have usually played to his advantage. Bethpage Black was long and hard and breezy when Tiger won the U.S. Open there, and Southern Hills was tough and brutally hot when he won his last PGA Championship.
So, you’d have to give Tiger the edge.
Still, it’s only the halfway mark. And those who are ready to hand the Wanamaker Trophy over need to think back just a few weeks to the U.S. Open at Olympic. Tiger held the lead going into the weekend and looked to be in command. He shot 75-73 and finished tied for 21st.
But as Tiger is so fond of saying: The goal is to be there with a chance on Sunday.
As of right now, he’s right where he wants to be to truly tie a bow on his latest comeback.
“I'm right there with a chance,” he said. “And that's … I like that.”