TULSA, Okla. – Tiger Woods fought hard to make the cut at the PGA Championship on Friday, summoning all of his skills to dig a couple of birdies out of the Southern Hills dirt to make it to the weekend.
But once he got there, it proved to be too much.
Hindered by unusually cold temperatures on Saturday morning and exhibiting a limp that appeared to get worse, Woods shot his highest score ever at the PGA Championship, a 79 that included a triple-bogey 6 on a par-3, a stretch of five straight bogeys and just a single birdie.
That he managed to break 80 was a minor victory, as he avoided territory he’s gone to just four times as a professional.
But with another early-morning tee time ahead and the prospect of more cold temperatures, Woods withdrew, with the PGA of America making the announcement early Saturday evening following the completion of the third round.
Woods has yet to issue a statement but his agent, Mark Steinberg, said in a brief phone interview that “he’s got pain and discomfort in the foot. He just thought it was in his best interest not to tee it up tomorrow.’’
The 15-time major champion continues to deal with the injuries he suffered to his right leg, ankle and foot during a 2021 car crash that were expected to keep him from playing golf well into this year.
It is the first time Woods has withdrawn from a tournament since he did so following the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic in January 2017. That was his last tournament prior to a spinal fusion surgery he had in April of that year that helped prolong his career and saw him win three more times, including the 2019 Masters.
The withdrawal was his first in a PGA Tour event since the 2015 Farmers Insurance Open, where he withdrew following the first round due to back issues. He had never withdrawn from a major as a pro, last doing so at the 1995 U.S. Open as an amateur.
“As much as he’s working and trying, the body just won’t cooperate,’’ said Joe LaCava, Woods’ caddie.
Given the severity of his injuries and based on his own words downplaying the chances, Woods didn’t figure to be playing competitive golf at this time. But he surprisingly came back at the Masters, where he finished 47th, shooting 78-78 on the weekend, his highest scores ever at Augusta National.
He came to Southern Hills a few weeks ago for a practice round, looked good in early-week nine-hole sessions, and was upbeat about the tournament. Even after playing with considerable discomfort on Friday, having made the cut with a 69, Woods was asked why he battled so hard to make it: “Well, you can’t win the tournament if you miss the cut.’’
Woods hoped to put up a good score in tough conditions and see if that might help him climb the leaderboard.
But a second-hole bogey followed by a triple-bogey 6 at the par-3 sixth hole put any of those thoughts to rest. Early-morning rain made the course play considerably longer, and temperatures in the mid-50s did not help. Not only does Woods have the leg issues, but he still deals with back problems associated with his 2017 spinal fusion surgery.
“He’s such a a phenomenal player,’’ said Shaun Norris, a South African who played with Woods during the third round. “You feel so sorry for him having to go through this. But then again, you also see the type of person that he is; that he grinds through everything and pushes himself, even all the pain and that. It's not easy to see a guy like him have to go through that and struggle like that.
“He's swinging it nicely, and I think he'll be back once he gets back to normal health and sorts out all the problems.’’
Heat, not cold, is necessary for him to have optimal playing opportunities. And Woods was facing an early tee time with temperatures in the 40s.
On Friday, Rory McIlroy lauded Woods’ effort and still wondered how he was doing it, especially given tough conditions on Thursday when he shot 74.
“Just incredibly resilient and mentally tough,’’ McIlroy said. “To get a front-row seat — he's feeling it, and he's feeling it on every swing, but to see what he did on that back nine — he missed a few iron shots but he got it up-and-down when he needed to and made an incredible birdie on 16 to sort of get him inside the cut number a little bit more.
“Look, he's the ultimate pro. Looking at him (Thursday), I wouldn't have — if that would have been me, I would have been considering pulling out and just going home, but Tiger is different and he's proved he's different. It was a monumental effort.’’
After the round Saturday, Woods left open the possibility that he might not play, saying “we’ll do some work and see how it goes.’’ He answered a few questions from a pool reporter, posed for a photo with Norris’ caddie, even signed a few autographs for a security official.
Then he climbed the stairs back to the clubhouse, two at a time. He looked like someone who could handle that aspect of every day life, simply not one prepared for the rigors of walking and standing on a golf course for hours on end.
Next up, in theory, would be the U.S. Open in Brookline, Massachusetts, at The Country Club – where Woods played on his only winning U.S. Ryder Cup team in 1999. The start of the tournament is 26 days away.
More PGA Championship Coverage from Morning Read
> Pereira? Zalatoris? Fitzpatrick? This PGA is Anyone's Guess
> Tiger Withdraws from PGA Championship After Third-Round 79
> Tiger Woods Balloons to 79 on Saturday in Unfavorable Weather
> Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy Shoot Disappointing 74s, Putting PGA Nearly Out of Reach
> In Dreary, Cold Conditions, Webb Simpson Fires Saturday 65
> Jack Nicklaus is Being Sued by the Nicklaus Companies
> ESPN Anchor Sage Steele Thanks Medical Personnel After Accident
> What to Watch in Round 4
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