After days of speculation, Tiger Woods went through his normal warm-up session Thursday morning and has teed off in his first round at the PGA Championship.
The four-time PGA Championship winner had injured his back last Sunday during the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Woods received treatment over the past several days, and played nine holes of a practice round on Wednesday.
Woods said after playing nine that the pain in his back was in a different area than where he had surgery earlier in the year. That procedure caused Woods to miss the Masters and the U.S. Open.
He now returns to Valhalla, where he beat Bob May in 2000 in one of the most fascinating battles in PGA Championship history. Woods led after each of the first three rounds that week before May caught him in the final round. Woods fended off May in a three-hole playoff to repeat as champion.
That was then, however, and the reality in the now is that Woods is battling a balky back. Woods is also far outside the top 125 on the FedExCup points list and well down in the Ryder Cup standings.
The playoffs begin in two weeks and if he doesn't qualify this week, Woods would need to play next week's Wyndham Championship in an attempt to qualify.
As for the Ryder Cup, even with a win this week, Woods' spot on that team is not a given. U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson would need to choose Woods with one of his captain's picks.
The only Ryder Cup team Woods missed in his career was in 2008. He won the U.S. Open on a broken leg that year, and that stands as his last major championship victory.