Tiger Woods Ready to Embrace Unknown of Fan-Less PGA Championship

Tiger Woods
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Remember Tiger Woods’ fist pump after sinking a do-or-die putt on the 72nd hole of the 2008 U.S. Open to force a playoff with Rocco Mediate?

Or the pandemonium when Woods won his 15th major championship at the 2019 Masters?

Sure, the golf produced drama. But it was the memorable crowds, the booming roars, forever pierced into the minds of those golfers experiencing history.

For the first time in his career, Tiger Woods will compete in a major championship without fans.

A strange reality for someone so used to passionate galleries.

“It’s going to be very different,” Woods said to reporters Tuesday via Zoom conference call. “But it’s still a major championship. It’s still the best players in the world. We all understand that going into it, so there’s going to be plenty of energy from the competitive side.”

From a young age, Woods has acclimated to crowds. Even playing amateur golf, many watched as Tiger dominated. One cannot picture some of his Woods’ dominant shots without the loudness that followed, like thunder following lightning.

What Woods calls the “unknown” is what every golfer in the 102nd PGA Championship field will deal with this week. No roars around the course on a Sunday afternoon. No high fives or fist bumps with fans.

Instead, it’s the golfer, with their clubs and ball, dealing with the elements of a golf course.

“As far as the energy outside the ropes, that is an unknown,” Woods said. “And hopefully I can put myself in a position where I can be in that position where I can feel what it feels like to have no fans and also coming down the stretch with a chance to win.”

Woods succeeded at TPC Harding Park in the past. He defeated John Daly at the 2005 WGC-American Express Championship in a playoff. Woods followed it up in 2009 at the Presidents Cup, going 5-0 en route to a United States victory.

The course, like Woods, has changed over the years. In such unique circumstances, from no fans to health and safety protocols, having prior knowledge of the course helps an aging veteran.

“All the qualifiers that we had to play up here, whether it’s here at Harding or it’s Lake Merced or SF or Olympic, those were some great qualifying rounds,” Woods said. “Coach would make us play in all different types of weather; if it was raining or not, go qualify and we had to qualify in our sport,

“Those were great memories and great times, and ones that I thoroughly miss.”

Entering this week’s PGA Championship, Woods played just one PGA Tour event. The Memorial Tournament, where Woods won five times, saw him finish tied for 40th.

Woods said to reporters on Tuesday that he is “feeling good physically” and that Memorial provided him a chance to regain that “competitive flow” again. You can only have so many practice rounds and charity events.

Playing only three tournaments in 2020 isn’t a large enough sample size to determine whether Woods is ready for the major championship. The cooler weather at TPC Harding Park doesn’t do any favours for Woods’ back, not as limber as it once was in his younger days.

“I think that for me when it’s cooler like this, it’s just make sure that my core stays warm, layering up properly,” Woods said. “I know I won’t have the same range of motion as I would back home in Florida where it’s 95 every day. That’s just the way it is.”

But this is Tiger Woods after all.

He surprised the golf world winning The Masters in 2019 when most wrote him off.

Even in a fanless environment, all you need to see is a 15-time major champion near the top of the leaderboard on Sunday to get queasy.

Asked whether he likes his chances, Tiger responded with this:

“Of course.”