The return of Tiger Woods from back surgeries continues to dominate the PGA Tour and it is front and center at this week’s PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in New York.
Las Vegas PGA Tour Champions player Bob May, who has struggled with his own back issues, is someone who can relate to Tiger’s plight.
Woods and a field 155 other professionals tee off Thursday in the season’s second major, and it is the first time the PGA will be played in May since 1949. Woods is coming off an impressive victory at the Masters in April — his 15th major title but first since 2008 — and has finished in the top six in each of the previous three majors.
May isn’t among the competitors, but always keeps an eye on his kindred spirit who he infamously battled in the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla in Kentucky, ultimately losing in a playoff.
Like Woods, May has undergone major back surgeries, including one two years ago, and is also enjoying a resurgence on the course. He is scheduled to play in the Senior PGA Championship next week at Oak Hill Golf Course in New York.
“It’s great to see him back on top and it’s not easy what he has done,” May said. “I don’t think people understand how hard the golf swing is on the back. Tiger will tell you, just as I will, the back could go out any day so you can’t take it for granted that once it’s back (healthy), it’s back.
“It’s always going to be a weak point for him just like it will always be a weak point for me and all we can do is work out and try and stay on top of it.”
During a press conference on Tuesday, Woods said that each day brings uncertainty, no matter if he is playing a daunting course like Bethpage Black in a major or just waking up on a normal day.
“I don’t know how sore I’m going to be the next morning and that’s the fickle nature of having my back fused,” Woods said. “Some days I have more range of motion. Some days I don’t. Some days I ache more, and sometimes I don’t. There’s more volatility, put it that way.”
Players in the PGA Championship field with ties to Las Vegas include Rickie Fowler, Charley Hoffman, Ryan Moore, Kevin Na, Scott Piercy, Adam Scott and Aaron Wise. Also playing is Bryson DeChambeau, the 2018 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open champion.
Freelance writer Brian Hurlburt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @LVGolfInsider on Twitter.
PGA Championship winner should be long hitter
As far as Henderson resident Butch Harmon can remember, this week’s PGA Championship at Bethpage Black will be the first major tournament he hasn’t attended in 35 years. But even so, the semi-retired swing coach of Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler, among others, still has enough inside knowledge to declare the type of player who should win.
“Bethpage Black will be a long hitter’s paradise because of the weather conditions,” Harmon said. “I really don’t think the average or shorter hitters have much of a chance because the course is already long and the wet conditions will make it even longer.”
The course measures 7,459 yards and could play several hundred yards longer should conditions stay damp through the weekend. Harmon said he spoke with his son, Claude, on Monday and he reported from the course that the conditions were extremely soggy and very difficult.
Harmon said defending champion Brooks Koepka and Johnson are players to watch and Tiger Woods, runner up a year ago, is now a factor anytime he plays. But even great players who are shorter lengthwise, like Francisco Molinari, could be at a disadvantage.
“Molinari is a great long iron player, but I think the course length will catch up to him and it will be difficult for him,” Harmon said. “For Tiger, his iron play has been phenomenal and it seems like every shot he hits is pin high. But he will have to drive it better this week to win.”
— Brian Hurlburt, Special to the Review-Journal