Tiger Woods, the Masters champion, going for the second leg of the Grand Slam on a long, wet course at Bethpage Black.
It all sounds so familiar.
For Woods, it feels entirely different.
The PGA Championship now occupies the second slot in the major championship schedule, given its move to May for the first time since 1949, and with only a month between majors, Woods chose not to play a tournament since winning his fifth green jacket.
He is every bit the global superstar he was in 2002 when he followed a Masters victory with a U.S. Open title at Bethpage Black in Farmington, N.Y., but he is not No. 1 in the world. And along with being 43, he is two years removed from fusion surgery on his lower back, and some days he doesn’t move as well as others.
“There are more days I feel older than my age than I do younger than my age,” Woods said.
The new version of an older Tiger is more than capable.
Photo: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images
He showed that in September when he won the Tour Championship at East Lake, his first victory since going through four back surgeries. And he showed in April, with his 15th major, that he was capable of challenging the Jack Nicklaus standard of 18 majors.
Still to be determined is whether Woods can be the dominant force he had been for a dozen years.
“I’m not looking at it like that,” Woods said. “Whether I’m dominant or not going forward, that remains to be seen. What I know is I need to give myself the best chance to win the events I play in, and sometimes that can be taking a little bit more breaks here and there, and making sure that I am ready to go and being able to give it my best at those events.”
Of the top 10 players in the world, Woods (No. 6) and Bryson DeChambeau (No. 8) are the only ones who have not played since the Masters.
Brooks Koepka, listed among the favorites, isn’t about to concede. Bethpage Black, which figures to play even longer than its 7,459 yards in soft conditions, is suited for good drivers like Koepka, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy.
Woods sued: The parents of a drunken driver who died in a car crash last year named Woods in a wrongful-death lawsuit. They blame him and his girlfriend for allowing their son to drive home from their Florida restaurant while intoxicated.
The lawsuit filed Monday says Nicholas F. Immesberger, a bartender at the restaurant owned by Woods and managed by Erica Herman, was served excessive amounts of alcohol Dec. 10 after he had finished a shift and before the car crash. Woods was not present, but under Florida law, the owner of a bar or restaurant can be held liable for a drunken-driving death if it was determined the restaurant staff served the victim past the legal limit.
“We’re all very sad that Nick passed away,” Woods said at Bethpage Black. “It was a terrible night, a terrible ending. And we feel bad for him and his entire family. It’s very sad.”