Tiger Woods has work to do and not much time to do it after PGA Championship

SAN FRANCISCO – The process that Tiger Woods continues to play competitive golf is not outlined in detail, but it understandably involves more than a few toes touching and casual swinging on the driving range.

Woods is typically awake for hours before tea time, attending a warm-up workout and trying with a trainer, mostly to do work on his neck and back.

Because he no longer travels with his own physical training specialist, Woods often relies on the coaches provided by the PGA Tour or, in the case of this week’s PGA Championship, those on TPC Harding. Park.

That said, one of Woods’ practice days before the PGA Championship felt Woods felt good enough to forget stopping en route to prepping for the tournament, a pleasant surprise for him in his battle with back stiffness.

Big deal? Maybe not. But for a boy who makes news because he changed putters, Woods is making it through a tournament week without noticing any physical issues.

That’s perhaps the biggest takeaway for Woods after his tie for 37th at the PGA Championship, where he shot a final round of 67, made a few more putts and left San Francisco overall with a brighter outlook than the cloudy, foggy skies.

“For me, I always look after health,” said Joe LaCava, Woods’ caddy. I think he feels and looks healthy. That’s great for me. If he feels and looks healthy, I know he can play. There were a lot of drivers of good quality, and [Sunday], we had easier circumstances, but he hit a lot of good ironshots, which I always like to see. ”

Woods clearly has work to do. He struggled with the greens, struggled to get the ball consistently in the fairway, and was his usual stellar not even playing with his iron – yet he still finished below par, turning what must have been a really bad round on a Saturday in a 72, and was able to leave Harding Park with a lot to build on.

But it all goes back to his health. Now awaits a busy stretch, some of which explain why he no longer played up to this point. Woods left this week before the FedEx Cup playoffs begin with the Northern Trust at TPC Boston on August 20th.

At 47th in the FedEx Cup standings, Woods cannot afford to skip that tournament if he intends to come to Atlanta for the Tour Championship, where he won in 2018 for his 80th PGA Tour victory. Woods has 604 points – 500 of which come from his October victory at the Zozo Championship in Japan.

That means the possibility that he will play several weeks in a row, something he has not done since the Hero World Challenge and the Presidents Cup in December. And at that Presidents Cup, he could skip a day because of back stiffness.

“We have training for that,” Woods said. Trying to get my strength and endurance up, that ability to make sure I can handle that kind of workload. We once knew I was going to start playing again when I assigned to Memorial that this was going to be a heavy workload, and during my training sessions we pushed it pretty hard, making sure I increased my strength and endurance.

“This will not be any different. We will push hard to make sure I can stay strong and have the stamina to keep going.”

That’s all fine and good, but there’s still the issue of Woods’ game. He has only played twice in the nine weeks since the return of the PGA Tour from the hiatus that was imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now he could potentially play four times in five weeks, including the US Open.

“Some work needs to be done,” LaCava said. He knows it. He needs to touch up his short game a bit, working at home on that. You just get to work. For me, it’s just a lack of tournament golf to play, do you know what I mean? You can not duplicate that at home. I understand it. He did not play these events, and he did not want to add any tournaments. He was locked up during the virus, so I get that. It’s not a complaint, just a fact. But I just think he needs more reps at this point. ”

Woods will probably get them, and it will be a balancing act. He wants to take it to the Tour Championship, but he did not seem to be aware that there is just a week away between it and the relegated US Open. He has to play, but he does not have to play too much.

And he has to work on his game in the areas that put the most stress on his back – pitching, playing bunker, wedge shots.

Living at different putts and speeds required extensive practice, one of the reasons he went for a longer putter. The bunkers caused problems at all at Harding Park, and Woods to convert just 2 of 11 storage options was partly to make and put it through. And Woods remains at best mediocre when it comes to hitting wig shots, with his approach averaging 42 feet for his distance to the hole from 100 to 125 yards.

Woods went for another model of the Scotty Cameron putter he has used for the majority of his career with mixed results; his problems were more about the green speeds and their acclimatization than the putter. And he said working with a longer putter helps him practice longer.

“Hopefully there are at least two more tournaments to get in the winner’s round,” LaCava said. He has had a win this season [Japan], but he would like to have one in the calendar year. He has only played four times [in 2020]. For me, it is not so much the Tour Championship – that would be a bonus at this point – just give us two more chances to win a tournament. That’s what we’re looking for. ”

Of course, Woods and LaCava look above the FedEx playoffs. The US Open is new month. The Masters is scheduled for November. Consequently, there is a Zozo title defense, probably in a place that will be relocated to the United States.

There is a lot of golf to play. How much of it – and how effective it can be – are the big questions for Woods.