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Tiger at Valhalla
Tiger Woods has arrived at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville for the 96th PGA Championship. The 14-time major winner played a practice round on the eve of golf's fourth major of the year.
The four-time winner of the Wanamaker Trophy, who won his second PGA title in 2000 at Valhalla, hit some balls on the driving range and then played a practice round with Davis Love III, Steve Stricker and Harris English.
It was uncertain whether Woods would even be making the trek from his Florida home to Kentucky. After "jarring" his back on the second hole last Sunday, he pulled out six holes later in the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The incident happened when Woods jumped back into a bunker after executing a shot from an awkward stance.
He withdrew after completing eight holes at Firestone Country Club in Akron, citing lower back pain. Woods underwent microdiscectomy surgery on March 31 and was playing in just his 10th competitive round since rehabbing his back.
"I just jarred it, and it's been spasming ever since," said Woods then; he pulled out following his drive on the ninth hole. "It's just the whole lower back."
Observers saw Woods tee off on the first hole Wednesday afternoon and it appeared there was no apparent pain in either his drive or approach.
Woods has until the first tee time Thursday (7:30 a.m.) to confirm he'll be playing in the championship. Woods is paired in the first two rounds with Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington; they're slated to tee off the 10th hole Thursday at 8:35 a.m.
If Woods doesn't play this week it may be difficult for him to be picked for the 2014 American Ryder Cup team because of his inactivity. However, Tom Watson, the Ryder Cup captain for the U.S., can still select Woods - depending on his health - as one his three discretionary picks.
Love is one of Watson's assistant captains. Stricker, one of Woods' best friends on Tour, was appointed assistant captain Wednesday.
Stricker said during a TV interview that Woods looked pretty good during his practice round Wednesday. "He looked like he was swinging at it pretty aggressively. I talked to him a little bit and he said he's 'feeling pretty pain-free' . . . I thought he did a lot of good things out there. He hit some great shots. He was loose and light and you wouldn't have known that he was hurt last week."