FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Upon his arrival at Augusta National for this year’s Masters, Tiger Woods said his swing had finally come around.
The long hours to the drive down Magnolia Lane spanned five starts, the last a tie for fifth in the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Championship. As he searched for a rhythm to the season and the perfect blend of power and precision with his swing, his mind was on the first major of the year and his practice sessions started to reflect that.
“I was trying to make sure that I could hit a high draw and call upon it with driver, 3-wood, 5-wood, any club in the bag, be able to hit that high draw, and I somehow found it,” Woods said Tuesday at the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. “The short game came around. I found something in my grip there, and pieces started coming together.
“Then the week unfolded, and what happened, happened.”
What happened on an emotional Masters Sunday was Woods outlasting some of the best players in the world to win his fifth green jacket – his first since 2005 – and his 15th major – his first since 2008.
But now what happens? For the seventh time in his professional career, Woods will go from playing one major championship to playing another major championship without a tune-up tournament in between. The world No. 6 hasn’t played in the last four PGA Tour events, deciding to call upon rest instead of reps as he passed on playing in the Wells Fargo Championship two weeks ago, which seemed a logical tournament to stay sharp.
Woods, however, doesn’t sound concerned about the layoff.
“I wasn’t ready yet to start the grind of practicing and preparing and logging all those hours again,” Woods said of his decision to pass on the Wells Fargo Championship. “I was lifting – my numbers were good. I was feeling good in the gym, but I wasn’t mentally prepared to log in the hours.
“Coming here is a different story. I was able to log in the hours, put in the time and feel rested and ready. That’s going to be the interesting part going forward; how much do I play and how much do I rest. I think I’ve done a lot of the legwork and the hard work already, trying to find my game over the past year and a half. Now I think it’s just maintaining it. I know that I feel better when I’m fresh.”
In the previous six times Woods went from one major to another – in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2008 and 2013 – he twice won the second major – the 1999 PGA Championship and the 2008 U.S. Open. The other four times he finished in ties for sixth, 28th and 29th and missed the cut in the 2006 U.S. Open.
— PGA Championship (@PGAChampionship) May 14, 2019
His victory in the 1999 PGA was his second major and first of four titles in this major championship. As he seeks his fifth PGA title and 16th major, he has confidence in his ability to handle the big, bad Black. He won the 2002 U.S. Open here and finished in a tie for sixth in the 2009 U.S. Open.
“In order to win this one, driving is going to be at the forefront,” Woods said. “With the rough as lush as it is, it has grown up a little bit. I don’t know how much they’re going to cut it down or top it off, but it won’t be much.
“Fairways are plenty wide because it’s wet. It’s just you’ve got to hit it not only straight, but you’ve got to hit it far because, as the week goes on and the greens dry out, the majority of the greens are elevated, and so trying to get enough spin, hitting the ball up to elevation with the greens firming up, you have to be in the fairway to do that.”
You’ll have to be in shape, too, Woods said, as stamina will play a part in the winner’s arsenal as the course can be an exhausting test of mental and physical strength. But Woods has logged the hours in the gym and on the range, and his body and mind are fresh.
“I’m excited to get out there on the golf course. We came up here last week, took a look at it in detail and spent a lot of time on it,” Woods said of a five-hour, 18-hole practice round May 8. “I played nine holes yesterday, and I’m going to take today off, I’ll practice a bit and I’ll play nine holes (Wednesday) making sure I’m ready to go come Thursday. This is not only a big golf course, but this is going to be a long week the way the golf course is set up and potentially could play.
“This could be a hell of a Championship.”