Tiger arrives at Valhalla

Tiger Woods has been plagued by injuries in recent years

Tiger Woods has been plagued by injuries in recent years

First published in National Sport © by

Tiger Woods finally arrived at Valhalla Golf Club on Wednesday to begin his preparations for the 96th US PGA Championship.

Woods' participation was in serious doubt after he withdrew from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational during Sunday's final round, the former world number one looking in severe pain from his back after hitting his tee shot on the ninth hole.

The 38-year-old, who underwent back surgery on March 31, was scheduled to play a practice round at 2pm local time.

Woods won the US PGA the last time it was staged here in 2000, but did not play in the Ryder Cup in 2008 and the course has since undergone extensive renovation led by designer Jack Nicklaus.

Woods is scheduled to tee off at 8:35am local time on Thursday alongside Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington, but could still decide to withdraw and miss three of the year's four majors for the first time in his career.

Knee surgery in 2008 to replace his anterior cruciate ligament - just after his last major victory in the US Open at Torrey Pines - forced him to miss the Open and US PGA Championship. In 2011 he failed to tee it up at the US Open and the Open because of an Achilles complaint.

Asked on Sunday if he had suffered the same injury which led to the operation in March, Woods told reporters: "It's just the whole lower back. It happened on the second hole when I hit my second shot. I fell back into the bunker. Just jarred it. It's been spasming ever since."

Woods missed the cut in his first event back at the end of June and then suffered his worst ever 72-hole finish in a major championship as a professional, ending up 69th in the Open at Royal Liverpool despite an opening 69.

He had previously spoken about being "pain-free" for the first time in two years, but told his pre-tournament press conference in Akron that other people who had undergone the same surgery "had no idea" how he was able to play again so quickly.

As Woods warmed up on the range, his good friend Steve Stricker was announced as Tom Watson's third and final vice-captain for the Ryder Cup, joining Andy North and Ray Floyd.

Watson has previously said he would pick Woods for the team if he was healthy and playing well, but admitted Sunday's withdrawal had moved the goalposts.

"I can't tell you what's going to happen with Tiger," Watson said. "I don't know his physical condition right now. I said right from the beginning, if he's playing well and he's in good health, I'll pick him.

"Obviously he's not in great health right now and he hasn't played very well. So the question is, will I pick him? Well, I can't tell until things happen in the next three or four weeks.

"I am encouraged (that he showed up at Valhalla). He said to me he really wants to make the team in the worst way. This Ryder Cup is a big thing and these players really want to make the team and bring that cup back to the United States. After what happened at Medinah (Europe winning from 10-6 down), I'd be the same way. I'd want to be getting on the team and do what you have to do to get that cup back."

Woods eventually teed off in front of a packed grandstand at 2:15pm alongside Stricker, former Ryder Cup captain Davis Love and Harris English.

It remained to be seen if he would play nine holes or a full round.

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