It’s been a month since Tiger Woods stunned the golf world by overcoming four back surgeries and periods when his troubled career appeared to be over by winning the Masters for his first major in 11 years.
Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy was still in awe Tuesday, two days before the start of the year’s second major, the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.
“I still don’t think people understand what he did in April and coming back, and with everything that he’s been through,” McIlroy said. “It’s unbelievable. Whether it’s the greatest comeback in sports, that’s probably up for debate, but from what I’ve experienced and the things that he said when I’ve been around him, to be 2½ years ago from looking like maybe not playing golf again to winning the first major of the year and being the favorite going into the second major of the year, I mean, that’s unbelievable.”
Like most golf fans, McIlroy sees a transformed Woods these days.
“I think he’s grateful and thankful that his kids get to see a little bit of what he was before they were around,” the two-time PGA Championship winner said. “So I think — it is different. He’s a different person. He’s in a different space in his life, and yeah, he just seems very grateful for this opportunity to do what he loves and compete.”
Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington will captain the European side at next year’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits. He’s got some strong ideas on how he will put together that squad to defend the title it won last year in France.
Harrington already has decided to use only three captain’s picks for the team, allowing the ninth-ranked player in the standings to automatically qualify. And he is planning to instruct candidates for those three picks to make sure they play the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth just before qualifying closes.
“I was surprised that in my change, everybody is talking about the three picks, but everybody seemed to have forgotten that the date has changed for the picks is actually the BMW Championship at Wentworth, which is only a week before the Ryder Cup,” he said. “So it’s a much later date for the picks.
“And one of the reasons that date is there is because it means anybody who wants a pick is going to have to turn up,” the Irishman said. “Nobody has an excuse not to turn up at the BMW Championship in the UK. They can’t say they’re playing another event or they’re somewhere else. If you want a pick, you’re going to have to turn up and play a big tournament with the other players who are interested in that pick so I can make a definitive decision as late as a week before the tournament.”
To Harrington, nothing compares with representing the continent in what has become the most intense event in golf. He has played in six Ryder Cups, winning it four times.
“I would be on the side of making the players jump through a few more hoops to be in the Ryder Cup team,” he said. “It is a huge deal to play in the Ryder Cup team in terms of people’s careers. Like Frankie Molinari won the Open last year, but the Ryder Cup made him, and that just sums it up for Europe. Like it really did make him as a golfer.”
A PGA committee on the American with Disabilities Act made the decision to allow John Daly to use a cart at this week’s event, the championships director for the PGA of America said Tuesday.
It’s safe to say Tiger Woods was not impressed with the request.
“As far as J.D. taking a cart, well, I walked with a broken leg,” Woods said.
He was referring to the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, which Woods played on shredded ligaments in his left knee and a double stress fracture in the leg. He played 91 holes, winning in a playoff.
Kerry Haigh, the championships director for the PGA of America, said Daly will not have access to all areas on the hilly course in the topless cart and much will depend on the golf course and the conditions, particularly if it rains.
“I will meet with John and just talk through where he can go and can’t go,” Haigh said. “Obviously there’s some places on this golf course where you can’t get a golf cart to. We try and use common sense, what’s reasonable, what’s fair for the protection both of the player and those issues as well as the playing of a major championship.”
Daly has arthritis in his right knee and he requested to be allowed to use a cart because of medical issues. He will be the first player to ride in a cart at a major championship since Casey Martin in the U.S. Open at Olympic Club in 1998 and 2012.
Vijay Singh became the third former champion to withdraw from the PGA Championship.
Singh, who won at Sahalee in 1998, cited a back injury for withdrawing. He was replaced by J.T. Poston, who will make his PGA debut.
Justin Thomas, who won at Quail Hollow in 2017, withdrew on Monday because a bone bruise in his right wrist hasn’t healed. He was replaced by Kelly Kraft. Last week, Davis Love III (Winged Foot in 1997) withdrew.
Thomas’ withdrawal keeps the PGA Championship from having all of the top 100 from the world ranking at Bethpage Black.
Tiger Woods is the Masters champion going for the second leg of the Grand Slam at Bethpage Black. The last time the PGA Championship was held in May was in 1949, when Sam Snead won. Snead also was the reigning Masters champion. … Max Homa makes his major championship debut this week and already has a trophy. He won the Long Drive Competition with a 318-yard drive on the 16th hole. … Craig Bowden is among 13 players competing in all three majors at Bethpage Black. He qualified for the U.S. Open in 2002 and 2009, and he qualified for the PGA Championship as a club pro.