MEDINAH, Ill. — The first full swings that Tiger Woods executed on the range Wednesday morning at Medinah Country Club were, in fact, the first he had made since he withdrew from The Northern Trust last Friday.
Woods confirmed after his pro-am round Wednesday that he did not hit any balls between the time he left Liberty National in Jersey City, N.J., and his arrival Tuesday at Medinah for this week’s BMW Championship. The decision seems to have paid off, because the reigning Masters champion said that the oblique strain that caused him to shut it down in last week’s first FedEx Cup Playoff event is much improved.
“Oh, [I’m] way better, yeah. It was nice to take those days off, and I had to just let it calm down and get a bunch of treatment on it, and it feels so much better,” Woods told reporters. “I played nine today, played the front nine, and played well, which was nice to see, nice to feel. Took the back nine off, chipped and putted quite a bit, and it feels like … definitely doesn't feel like it did on Friday, that's for sure.”
As he did a week ago at Liberty National, Woods stopped making full swings on the 10th hole, although this time he did hit a drive off the 10th tee at Medinah’s No. 3 Course, blistering his best drive of the morning. He continued to chip and putt the rest of the round, but he explained that the reason he backed off was not because of discomfort but because his pro-am group, which was first off the No. 1 tee at 6:50 a.m. CDT, had caught up to Jon Rahm and his pro-am partners, who were the last group off the 10th tee. Woods wanted to avoid long intervals between full swings.
His first round begins at 11:54 a.m. (CDT) Thursday with Billy Horschel and C.T. Pan. His Friday start time is 9:37 a.m.
Woods, 43, said he suffered his latest injury making slight adjustments to his golf swing, as he has done most of the year, even after winning the Masters in April for his 15th major professional title. “As I've said before, the forces have got to go somewhere, and unfortunately when I make any kind of tweaks and changes to my swing, it's like a new body part is aching,” he said. “Unfortunately, I can't play around the back like I used to, and things flare up.
“I’ve tried to make tweaks all year, trying to ease the stress off my back while I was still playing. Unfortunately, I haven't really done a very good job of that, and when I have, I've hit the ball quite well. I was really excited about what I was doing at Liberty. I made some nice changes, and obviously didn't feel very well on Thursday.”
Regardless of his overall health, he has good feelings about this venue. Woods won the 1999 and 2006 PGA Championships at Medinah. “Yeah, I've had some good memories. The golf course is a lot bigger. It's a lot longer than I remember. … I’m excited to be back in Chicago. This is one of the places that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing over the years.”
Woods has a lot to play for this week. He is 38th in the FedEx Cup standings and needs to finish 11th or better at Medinah to finish in the top 30 and qualify for the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, where last year he ended a five-year victory drought with his 80th tour title.
“I’m trying to win this tournament just like anybody else in this field,” he said, “and trying to get to East Lake and trying to get to a place where a lot of things changed for me last year, and hopefully I can make that happen.”