Tiger Woods played nine holes in the chill and dampness of the early morning as PGA Championship week began in gray, dreary conditions at Bethpage Black.
With temperatures in the 40s, the Masters champ pulled a ski cap over his golf cap and got on with his preparations in pursuit of his 16th major. He won his eighth on this course at the 2002 U.S. Open.
Woods hasn’t played since his stunning Masters victory in April, opting out of the Wells Fargo Championship two weeks ago. He visited Bethpage for a practice round in warmer conditions last week.
“First and foremost, he looks good and he’s moving around well,” said his caddie, Joe LaCava. “That’s the first thing I look for, especially considering the conditions. He’s driving it well, the game looks pretty good, and his short game around the greens looks really good. I know it’s just a practice round, but still, looks pretty solid.
“Being well-rested is more important than anything," LaCava said. “And winning the Masters took a lot out of him. Playing another tournament, wherever it might have been, I don’t think it would have been a setback, but it would have taken a lot out of him. Probably wouldn't have done him any good because he would have been too tired. When you're tired, there’s no need to play.”
Woods had a few issues with the wet, thick rough around the greens and discovered what everyone would soon find out for themselves: The Black Course is playing long.
It’s not just the soft fairways, so wet that they were kicking up worms. It’s the cold.
Woods busted a drive on the fourth hole, leaving him 250 yards out on the par-5. He followed with a 3-wood and was still 25 yards short. LaCava said that’s why last week’s practice round was more important than yesterday’s.
“Hopefully, it will be warmer come Thursday, so that was big because we have an idea of yardages and runouts,” he said. “We did a lot of work around the greens, which was nice.”
There is a chance of showers when Woods tees off at 8:24 a.m., along with Brooks Koepka and Francesco Molinari Thursday morning. Woods’ spirits should be high despite forecasted temperatures in the low 50s.