There are limits to Tiger Woods’ ability to work miracles. Somewhere. There must be, right?
Woods will not win the PGA Championship. He may never win a tournament again. But he stays in the fight long after so many others have given up.
Fifteen months after a devastating car accident that nearly cost him his leg, six weeks after returning to competitive golf in Augusta, a day after a round of the PGA Championship that started hot but stalled late, Woods has beaten during one of the toughest rounds of his career to make the cut with a bang to spare.
A shot over the cut line with seven tough holes to play, a visibly pained Woods carved out the final stretch of Southern Hills, playing the final stretch at -2 to give himself breathing room – and some rest additional – before the weekend.
“I’ve won tournaments – not major championships, but I’ve won tournaments on the cut count,” Woods said. “There’s a reason you fight hard and you can give yourself a chance on the weekends. You never know when you might get hot.”
Throughout Woods’ career, through swing changes and caddy changes, trophies and scandals, what has remained constant is his tenacity. He just doesn’t give up in the face of injuries, battling ailments and misfortunes that would have ended other players’ tournaments – or careers. From the 2008 US Open which he won on a broken leg to the 2019 Masters which he won after multiple knee and back surgeries until this week, Woods has always shown a single-minded determination to continue his career in his own way.
“I won’t be playing many tournaments in the future,” Woods said. “These will be the biggest tournaments. I want to be able to play the big championships. I have always loved playing them.”
Along with Rory McIlroy, who saw his advance on Thursday slipping away, and Jordan Spieth, who was struggling to find any type of form, Woods was fighting his own private battles late Friday afternoon. Playing with zero margin of error, he grimaced throughout the afternoon, particularly late in the round as he approached the course’s toughest holes.
The turning point for Woods came after the 11th, where he doubled the short par 3 to drop to +5, one on the cut line with just seven holes remaining. But the next three holes were a masterclass in strategic and nervous golf – Woods rolled in two putts over 14 feet to save pars on 12 and 14, and took advantage of the last par 5 on the course, the 13th , to gain a stroke and return to the high side of the cut line.
Woods overcooked his approach on the 15th, ending up in one of the treacherous, gritty Southern Hills bunkers. But again, Woods found a touch that so many other players in the bunkers lacked, brushing the approach less than a yard from the hole. A hole later, he unveiled his best iron shot of the week, dropping his approach within a yard of the cut for a birdie attempt. He dumped it with authority, giving himself a one-shot cushion before the final two holes.
On the 17th, Woods wavered again on the approach, flying over the green and landing in the fringe. But once again Woods pitched out of real trouble and rolled into a knee knocker from a par putt, then clenched his jaw in pain as he walked off the green.
That left him with a hole left, and he made the 18th—one of the toughest on the entire course—a routine, with a simple drive-two-putt approach. He left the course tired but satisfied. The mountains he conquers may not be so high these days, but he keeps on going, limping step by step.
“Coming back here to a place where I had success, playing against the best players in the world, that’s what we all want to be able to do,” said Woods, who won the 2007 PGA Championship at Southern Hills. “Fortunately, I’m able to do it somehow. I had great staff at PT who put Humpty-Dumpty back together.”
“He’s the ultimate pro,” McIlroy said. “If it had been me, I would have considered retiring and going home, but Tiger is different and he proved he is different… It was just a monumental effort.”
Jay Busbee is a staff writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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