Woods in bet­ter place head­ing into this PGA Cham­pi­onship

Times Colonist - - Sports - DOUG FER­GU­SON

SAN FRANCISCO — The course is one Tiger Woods knows well and where he has win­ning mem­o­ries. The PGA Cham­pi­onship is a ma­jor he has won four times, more than any­one ex­cept Jack Nick­laus and Wal­ter Ha­gen.

Woods learned last year that brings no guar­an­tee of play­ing well. Com­ing off the deep emo­tions of a Mas­ters vic­tory that capped his re­mark­able come­back, Woods lasted only two days at Beth­page Black and missed the cut.

He said Tues­day he’s in a much bet­ter place at TPC Hard­ing Park.

Never mind that Woods has played only one tour­na­ment — a tie for 40th at the Me­mo­rial — in the last six months be­cause of the COVID-19 pan­demic and his own lim­ited sched­ule. The biggest dif­fer­ence was show­ing up on Sun­day in the sun­shine to play 18 holes at Hard­ing Park, fol­lowed by nine holes Mon­day as fog crept through the cy­press trees.

A year ago, he played 18 holes a week be­fore the PGA Cham­pi­onship and only nine holes in the three days leading to the open­ing round. This year, his ap­proach ap­pears more se­ri­ous.

“After I won the Mas­ters, it was a bit of a whirl­wind,” Woods said. “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 bad. Koepka beat him by only 17 and went on to win a second straight Wana­maker Tro­phy.

“My game is bet­ter than it was go­ing into that PGA,” Woods said, “and hope­fully, I can put it to­gether this week.”

They were en­cour­ag­ing words, not quite to the level he shared about a few past ma­jors. Woods said that only three times in the 15 ma­jors he won did he re­al­ize “all I had to do was keep my heart­beat go­ing and I was go­ing to win.”

He can’t pre­dict how his sur­gi­cally re­paired back will feel to­mor­row, much less for an en­tire week. And he hasn’t com­peted enough lately to get a true sense of how he will per­form.

Woods just knows it will be quiet. This is the first ma­jor with­out spec­ta­tors.

Tiger Woods and Billy Horschel share a laugh dur­ing prac­tice at TPC Hard­ing Park in San Francisco on Tues­day.

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