TULSA, Okla. – A little more than a baker’s dozen of players braved the heat index that toppled 90 degrees to get in some prep work Sunday at Southern Hills Country Club ahead of the 104th playing of the PGA Championship.
Among them was a healthier Tiger Woods.
“I’ve gotten a lot stronger since the Masters,” Woods said as he toured the front nine of the locale where he won the 2007 PGA Championship, his 13th of 15 majors and his first as a father. “We went back to work on Tuesday (after the Masters). Monday was awful; I did nothing and Tuesday was leg day.
“So we went right back after it. Everything is better.”
Despite a vicious storm front moving into the area, Woods didn’t rush his practice round and spoke briefly on the fifth fairway with a dozen reporters. Joined by Gary Woodland on the fifth tee, and after signing golf flags for Kevin Na walking off the first tee, Woods spent considerable time on and around the greens.
And he was walking taller, swinging freer and looking stronger than just a month ago, when Woods returned at the Masters just 14 months after nearly killing himself in a single-car crash north of Los Angeles; it was later learned that amputation of Woods’ right leg was an option.
The five-time Masters champion opened with a 71 at Augusta National but faded to 47th with rounds of 74-78-78.
“Hundred percent I see him stronger. I just think the endurance is there now,” caddy Joe LaCava said. “I don’t think he’s getting quite as tired as quickly. I see more endurance than anything.”
Woods flew to Tulsa for an 18-hole practice round in late April. Then LaCava spent three days with Woods in Florida earlier this week as his boss was “ramping it up,” Woods said.
“We were doing some practicing and some playing, so it was a combination,” LaCava said. “We were not just playing and not just practicing. We were kind of mixing it up, kind of simulating what you might do at a tournament, doing some chipping and putting before and after, so you’re on your feet a little bit longer.
“Other than the fact that he won here in 2007, I think it’s the stamina and endurance thing that excites him the most.”
As does the future.
“It’s only going to keep getting stronger,” Woods said of his right leg. “The more I use it, the more strength it gains. Am I ever going to have full mobility? No. Never again. But I’ll be able to get stronger. It’s going to be ache, but that’s the way it’s going to be.
“I’m excited about (the week). I’m not going to play that much going forward so anytime I do play, it’s going to be fun to play and to compete. There are only so many money games you can play at home.”