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After a heavy defeat, Tiger Woods spoke out about ‘bad’ moments along with harsh truths 

On Friday night Tiger Woods concluded play at the 2024 PGA Championship. And for the first time in a long time, the golf world’s reaction to his round felt like one collective shrug.
Tiger Woods defies calls to retire after latest struggles at US PGA

For years now (for decades, really) we’ve hung on Woods’ every shot in these major championship starts. We’ve studied his gait. His ball speed. His putting stroke. In his latest comeback we’ve taken little moments (a flagged long iron, say) and wondered if they could turn to big moments. If he could just string enough of ’em together … could he win again?

But this week was different.

There were other factors involved, of course. Scottie Scheffler’s arrest loomed over the day’s proceedings, for one thing. And second-round tee time was delayed until mid-afternoon; by the time Woods addressed a half-empty press room, eight shots off the cut line, it was nearly 8 p.m. Asked to describe his week, he sighed and smiled.

“The week? It was a great week being here, being here at Valhalla, and unfortunately my scores did not indicate how the people treated me and how great a week I had,” he said. “Unfortunately, I hit too many shots.”

There was no denying that part. Woods had just birdied the 18th hole to close out a second-round six-over 77; paired with his first-round 72 that left him at 7 over par for the tournament, the same score as club pro sensation Michael Block.

Still, Woods showed enough form that optimists could find bright spots. For 16 holes on Thursday he was a relatively effortless one under par. He was moving well, too. I’m not saying he looked like a future major winner. But a major top-20er? You could talk yourself into that.

But then Woods showed enough weakness to feed the pessimists, too. First he failed to finish off his opening round, three-putting his final two holes from relatively innocuous spots on the green. Then he got off to a disastrous start to his second round, going par-triple-bogey-triple out of the gate. He played those six holes in nine over par. The other 30? A respectable 2 under.

In other words, there are no hot takes or strong conclusions to accompany Woods’ week. He’s not definitively done. He’s also not definitively back. This didn’t feel like a new beginning but it didn’t feel like the beginning of the end, either. He can walk okay. His swing looks good. But he looked rough around the edges, too. He played a stretch of disappointing golf and golf fans would like to see him better. On Friday night he made it clear that he expects better, too.

“I just kept making mistakes and [doing] things you can’t do, not just in tournaments but in majors especially. And I just kept making them.” He sounded incredulous at the idea.

He, too, could find some bright spots. “Physically, yes, I am better than I was a month ago,” he said, referring to his made cut at the Masters. And he added that he’s still confident his game will get better in time. But at that thought — in time — Woods suddenly looked a little sad. Time remains an enemy.

“I just need to play more,” he said. “Unfortunately I just haven’t played a whole lot of tournaments — and there aren’t a lot of tournaments on my schedule, either. Hopefully everything will somehow come together in my practice sessions at home and be ready for Pinehurst.”

That’s Woods’ current dilemma. His tough reality. His body hasn’t allowed him to play more than a handful of tournaments per year. But he needs more tournament reps to play well in those tournament starts. If the only thing he needs to do is the only thing he can’t, then that’s a problem without an easy answer.

It’s an especially tall task given his hand-picked schedule of the toughest, most competitive events on Tour. For three and a half years, every tournament that Tiger Woods has played has been either a major championship or an event where he’s the host. As the game has gotten more difficult he has continued to ratchet the difficulty up even further.
It’s easy to imagine an alternate future. Would a John Deere start not do him wonders? A non-major where he’s not playing host? Where he could buzz in on Tuesday and see how he felt in a lower-pressure setting? Fans of Woods still remember when he took that approach at the 2018 Valspar Championship — with great success. But 2018 was a long time ago, and it gets further every day. This is a different Woods with a different body.

It bears mentioning that Woods has added another job to his plate, too. He joined the PGA Tour’s Policy Board and now the board of its for-profit wing, PGA Tour Enterprises. Together that’s no small commitment.

“All three are important in their own different ways,” he said Friday. “For me playing for pride and what I can do out here, but also off the golf course the impact and responsibility that I have as a player director and as a representative of the players and what I can do off the golf course to help this tour.”

The player directors have insisted that they’re able to balance play with off-course efforts. But Woods also acknowledged the strain it takes.

“We just don’t sleep much,” he said. “There’s a lot of late nights and Zoom calls at odd hours of the night, all throughout the night, and lots of e-mails to read.”

This is Tiger Woods’ reality now. More emails. Fewer tournaments. An uncooperative body. A belief things can still improve. And an ongoing chase for better.

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