Last shot at glory for Woods in 2014

Tiger Woods of the U.S. lines up his putt on the second hole during the final round of the British...

Tiger Woods of the U.S. lines up his putt on the second hole during the final round of the British Open Championship at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, northern England July 20, 2014. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Tim McKay, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:59 PM ET

The major formally known as “Glory’s Last Shot” has moved away from that slogan, but at no time has the tag seemed more appropriate.

Last year, the PGA Tour requested that the PGA of America drop the dramatic handle for its championship – which is now known as the much-less dramatic “The Season’s Final Major” – because it made the tour’s FedExCup seem irrelevant.

While the FedEx Cup is an important season finale for the PGA Tour, there’s no denying that majors matter more.

And for the man who made the modern day mold for scheduling a season to focus on the majors, this PGA Championship certainly feels like it’s “Glory’s Last Shot.”

For Tiger Woods, it’s the last shot to win a major championship this season and avoid pushing his drought to six consecutive seasons.

It’s his last chance to get back on track toward Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 majors, a pace which he fell off when he failed to collect No. 15 at this season’s British Open.

It’s his last shot at making the FedExCup Playoffs. He’s ranked 215th as of Sunday and only the top 125 move on.

It’s Woods’ last shot at showing Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson he’s worthy of being a Ryder Cup pick instead of having to rely on past accomplishments alone.

And it’s the last shot for the 38-year-old superstar to prove he is, indeed, back from his back troubles, having undergone microdiscectomy surgery in March.

Can Woods re-establish himself as a real contender again in these major championships he so covets?

While not altogether fair since many are surprised Woods is even playing as soon after surgery than some expected – Canadian Graham DeLaet took a year to get back following the same procedure – the expectations are still there.

Expectations of fans that Woods can and will compete next week in Kentucky at Valhalla, where he triumphed in that spectacular playoff with Bob May 14 years ago.

Expectations of the bookies, most of whom have Woods as one of the top horses along with Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott.

And, perhaps, most notably, expectations of the man himself, who continually says he’s playing to win despite the factors stacked against him.

Woods, who starred in a controversial Nike commercial which shouted “Winning takes care of everything,” is hoping that’s the case, last week saying his goal was to win the Bridgestone Invitational (which isn’t likely after his rusty play over the first few rounds) and the PGA Championship. That would get him into the playoffs and likely into the Ryder Cup, but it’s a lofty goal that his recent play has not supported.

“Well, I would like to win these two events and not have to worry about anything. That's the plan. That's the mindset. That's the focus,” Woods said ahead of Bridgestone. “We'll see how it falls after these few weeks. Other than that, I really -- I'm so far out of it right now that I need to play well to get myself there…”

The PGA Championship, at the site of one of his greatest triumphs in his storied career, does represent Tiger’s last shot at glory for this season.

If not, it’s back to the drawing board and back to the recovery and preparation for another season with a set of four more majors to get his pursuit of Nicklaus back on track.

Jack says Tiger can still catch him and Woods believes it, too. But as time marches on and the years and injuries pile up, the stance is softening, if just a little.

“I'll tell you what, (Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors is) a hell of a lot closer now than it was in '97. These 14 weren't easy,” Woods said last week in defence of his accomplishments. “I've passed a lot of people on the way to get to this point. You look at the who's who and the history of the game and the fact there's only one person ahead of me, it's not too bad.”

On Saturday, Woods again struggled with his driver and putter for a two-over par 72 at the Bridgestone on a Firestone course he has owned, but he remained positive.

“I just need more reps,” Woods said. “I’m actually getting better the more rounds I’m playing. I’m actually getting my feel back.”

Whether it will be in time will be answered this week at Valhalla.

MAJOR PURSUIT

Jack Nicklaus won his 15th major at the age of 38 (the 1978 British Open). Can Tiger Woods win No. 15 at 38 this week at the PGA Championship?

Jack Nicklaus Tiger Woods

s1. 1962 U.S. Open (Age: 22) 1. 1997 Masters (Age: 21)

2. 1963 Masters (23) 2. 1999 PGA (23)

3. 1963 PGA (23) 3. 2000 U.S. Open (24)

4. 1965 Masters (25) 4. 2000 British Open (24)

5. 1966 Masters (26) 5. 2000 PGA Championship (24)

6. 1966 British Open (26) 6. 2001 Masters (25)

7. 1967 U.S. Open (27) 7. 2002 Masters (26)

8. 1970 British Open (30) 8. 2002 U.S. Open (26)

9. 1971 PGA Championship (31) 9. 2005 Masters (29)

10. 1972 Masters (32) 10. 2005 British Open (29)

11. 1972 U.S. Open (32) 11. 2006 British Open (30)

12. 1973 PGA Championship (33) 12. 2006 PGA Championship (30)

13. 1975 Masters (35 ) 13. 2007 PGA Championship (31)

14. 1975 PGA Championship (35) 14. 2008 U.S. Open (32)

15. 1978 British Open (38) ???? 2014 PGA Championship (38)

16. 1980 U.S. Open (40)

17. 1980 PGA Championship (40)

18. 1986 Masters (46)

D.J. SPINS PGA’S RECORD

Dustin Johnson’s reportedly self-imposed ban from golf for the rest of the season left many scratching their heads on Friday.

It was a shocker and the rumours started flying about failed drug tests while the PGA Tour muddied the waters by saying it had not suspended the 30-year-old.

Whatever the case may be, the loss of the world’s No. 16-ranked player means next week’s PGA Championship at Valahalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky., lost out on its bid to become the first major championship to feature all of the top-100 players in the world.

It’s always touted as the strongest field in golf – and that can be debated at times – but as of last week, all of the top-100 players had committed to the field.

All of this is good news for Jerry Kelly, who had been the first alternate for the PGA Championship and now is in following Johnson’s withdrawal. Pat Perez, now first alternate, also will get in if the Bridgestone Invitational winner is already eligible.

Two Canadians are in the field, world No. 35 Graham DeLaet, a native of Weyburn, Sask., and Brantford, Ont.’s David Hearn, who was ranked at No. 93.

DeLaet tees off on the first hole Thursday at 1:15 p.m. with Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Gary Woodland. Hearn is off No. 10 at 1 p.m. with Alexander Levy and Stuart Deane.

HEAVEN OR HELL?

Look up Valhalla and the good folks at Webster’s Dictionary provide two meanings, the spiritual and the practical:

1: The great hall in Norse mythology where heroes slain in battle are received.

Ok, so, basically heaven for those who have battled their way into the golf world’s upper echelon? A stretch, maybe.

2: A place of honour, glory, or happiness.

Come next Sunday, that’s certainly where your 2014 PGA Champion will be. In heaven, or at the very least, in a place of honour, glory, or happiness.

But it’s not going to be easy.

The Valhalla Golf Club is the longest par-71 course in PGA Championship history, at 7,458 yards, just shy of the longest par-71 layout in major championship history, the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, which measured 7,643 yards.

While it’s the third time the Louisville, Ky., course, designed by Jack Nicklaus and owned by the PGA of America, has hosted the PGA Championship, this will mark the first time it hasn’t been played as a par 72.

Tiger Woods and Bob May each shot 18-under par in 2000, with Woods winning in the playoff, but Nicklaus was brought in to make a few “updates” to his 1986 design ahead of this year’s PGA Championship.

All of the greens were rebuilt and the course has received some tweaking, most notably the addition of some bunkers and changing the look of a few holes.

Like any course, how it plays will depend on the amount of moisture it receives during the week. With high heat and thundershowers in the long-range forecast for Louisville, Valhalla could lose its teeth as the world’s top players descend.

And, like any course, it has its detractors. Sergio Garcia, who may be one of the favourites coming in with his play of late, this week made no bones about his stance on Valhalla.

“Well, I haven't played it since 2008, since the Ryder Cup (a 16.5-11.5 victory for the U.S.). I'm not going to lie to you. It's not my favourite golf course in the world, but I'm excited to see how it looks,” Garcia said. “I remember, obviously, a little bit from 2000. 2008, they'd already made some changes. So it will be interesting to see how it plays. Hopefully, if it plays firm, it will be a nice test. If it plays soft, it kind of gets a little bit easier for everybody.

“I'm excited to go and see it. Like I said, I haven't seen it for six years.”

Garcia may not love the course, but he may have the advantage over younger players just because he has played there. It’s going to be a learning experience for many, including Rickie Fowler, who has been in the hunt in all of the year’s majors.

“I've never been there. The most I've probably seen of the golf course is Tiger and Bob May (the 2000 duel),” Fowler said. “So I've got a lot of learning to do once I get there on Monday. I'm looking forward to it.”

“I'll probably play 18 Monday, kind of scoot around quickly. I think we have a match set up for Tuesday. I'm going to get most of my work done early on.

“So as far as how the course sets up for me, I don't know yet, but I'll do my prep pretty similar to what I did at The Open Championship (where he finished tied for second, two shots back of Rory McIlroy). I played 18 Monday. We had a match on Tuesday. By the time Wednesday had come around, I just got a little bit of practice in, got some short game, and I felt I was pretty well prepared to go Thursday.”

 


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