The PGA Championship leaderboard probably won't have Tiger Woods near the top of it. However, having Woods try and fail in the PGA Championship and not having him play at all are two very different outcomes. After a lot of doubt this week, it appears Woods is about to try after all starting on August 7, despite his better than usual odds of failure.
Yet at 8:35 a.m. est, Woods made his scheduled tee off after days of speculation over his latest back injury. Just four days ago, he had to withdraw from the final holes of the Bridgestone Invitational because of it. But he is finally set to play the first few holes of the PGA Championship, at the very least.
Years ago, a pairing of Woods, Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington would have been expected to top the leaderboard or come very close. Today, a Woods and Mickelson pairing is only remarkable because Woods managed to make the tee off. But beyond that, the likes of Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler are the ones with actual buzz to win.
Even a good round today doesn't mean anything, since Woods started -3 at the British Open and then fell apart during the next three days. It was the first major he had played all season, so starting out under par fueled expectations he wasn't ready to meet. If he shoots under par or close to it to start the PGA Championship today, it may or may not be easier to keep perspective.
Being respectable after these last several days and this rough season in general would be a kind of win for Woods. Yet even without so much pressure to actually win, it isn't like Woods has nothing to lose, given what it would say if things went even worse -- and if he aggravated his back or anything else again.
Unless Woods makes a shocking run up the PGA Championship leaderboard, he may not get much out of this tournament, other than putting his health at risk again for little payoff. If this wasn't a major, he might have been willing to rest and start another long recovery -- but it isn't, and he is back after all as a result.
The Golf Channel currently has PGA coverage, before TNT takes over at 1 p.m. est once Woods' round is done.