Three months ago, after Woods withdrew from The Players Championship with a neck injury while languishing at the bottom of the leaderboard, Goydos said it was too early to say how much Woods was affected by the turmoil in his personal life. He suggested waiting until Woods played courses that he historically dominated _ Pebble Beach, St. Andrews, Firestone.
“That didn’t work out too well, did it?” he said Monday at Whistling Straits.
Woods did tie for fourth at the U.S. Open, even if he stumbled badly in the final round. He was never in the hunt after the first day at St. Andrews, tying for 23rd in the British Open. And in the worst tournament of his career, Woods beat only one player in the 80-man field with an eye-popping score of 18-over 298 at Firestone.
Goydos still isn’t ready to rule him out.
Not for the PGA Championship, which starts Thursday on this links-styled course along Lake Michigan. Not even for the Ryder Cup, less than two months away, with Woods probably needing to finish in the top 10 to have any chance of qualifying.
“The game is hard,” Goydos said. “Obviously, he’s struggling. But sometimes we judge how far away someone is by the scores they shoot, and that’s not necessarily true. I’m a good example of that.”
Remember, it was only a month ago that Goydos shot 59.
“Let’s talk about how poorly he’s played,” he continued. “Since 2008, he’s the No. 1 player in our world ranking. Not by as much as he used to be, but he’s still No. 1 since the PGA two years ago. My point is, the demise of Tiger Woods might not be what it seems. Is he playing poorly? Yes. But he’s still No. 1.”
Woods finished so far behind at Firestone, and finished so early, that he arrived at Whistling Straits on Sunday afternoon, well ahead of most of the players. Only his caddie, Steve Williams, was seen walking the course.
They were out early on Monday, with Williams spending most of his time holding the end of a club against Woods‘ head as a reminder to keep it still through the swing. Then came a long practice session on the range before leaving.
Before leaving Firestone on Sunday, Woods twice said toward the end of his interview, “I need to be ready by Thursday.”
Hunter Mahan, who won the Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday and finished 30 shots ahead of Woods, was among dozens of players who began arriving for the final major championship of the year.
Those who were at Firestone spent time on the practice range. Some played nine holes.
Most came to the same conclusion.