MEDINAH, Ill. — Tiger Woods arrived at Medinah Country Club on Tuesday afternoon and said it wasn’t until Tuesday morning that he decided he would play in this week’s BMW Championship.
Woods withdrew last Friday from the Northern Trust with a mild oblique strain after shooting 75 in the opening round of the first FedEx Cup playoff event.
“I feel good,” Woods said. “Feel a lot better than I felt last week. Felt good this morning, so I thought I’d give it a go.”
Woods said he would be receiving treatment but didn’t expect to hit balls or play a practice round Tuesday. There was a chance he might work on his short game. He has a 7:50 a.m. (ET) pro-am tee time on Wednesday.
The golfer has complained of stiffness and soreness throughout a disappointing summer that has seen him play in just five tournaments since his Masters victory in April, including missed cuts at the PGA Championship and The Open.
He said after withdrawing in New Jersey that he hoped to play in this week’s playoff event, the second of three tournaments that concludes the PGA Tour season. Wednesday’s pro-am gives him a chance to further gauge his ability to play.
Woods has steadily fallen in the FedEx Cup rankings to 38th, meaning he needs a good result this week to qualify for next week’s Tour Championship, as the top 30 advance to East Lake. The PGA Tour projects Woods likely needing a finish no worse than 11th to make it to Atlanta.
That is where Woods won his 80th PGA Tour title last year, holding off the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler to win for the first time in five years. At the time, he was just 17 months removed from the spinal fusion surgery that helped revive his career but kept him from swinging a golf club for six months in 2017.
Throughout 2018, Woods rarely showed any discomfort, and even through the Masters this year — a span of six tournaments — he appeared to have no major issues with his back.
But starting at the PGA at Bethpage in May, Woods has never looked the same. His swing speed is down from a year ago and his scores up. Other than the Masters, where a final-round 70 held off Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele for his 15th major, Woods has not contended in any other stroke-play event. He tied for fifth at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, where he made it to the quarterfinals.
Woods had never previously reported any oblique issues — they are muscles in the abdominal area and are responsible for core control and rotation — but he has said on numerous occasions that although his spine is fused, the “force has to go somewhere” and that it leads to some other issues he has experienced. Core muscle strains often occur due to repetitive rotating.
“He’s being smart,” Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, said Friday. “I’ve said in the past, years ago, he just would have continued to play through all of this. If he had the same mentality he had years and years ago, he wouldn’t be playing golf at all right now. He said it again the other day, this is the new normal. He’s had multiple surgeries all over his body. These things now are not debilitating enough to keep him out for months at a time, but just enough that he can’t compete at the level he needs to compete at. He shouldn’t put himself in a position where he could put himself out for a long period of time. If you feel you should not go, you should not go.”