Will he ever be the same again?

Tulsa, Oklahoma — Shock.

That was the overriding emotion as I watched Tiger Woods stumble through Southern Hills on Saturday morning and hit an unimaginable 79 shots to end his third round of the PGA Championship (a day after shooting a brave 69 to close the cut make) – and then withdrew from the championship later in the day.

Unbelief.

That was the emotion he evoked as he watched Woods bogey five consecutive holes (the first time he did it in a major championship as a pro) en route to the 10-over for his third round of 13 holes. .

Sadness.

That was the emotion that gripped you as you watched Woods limp from his surgically repaired right leg and foot after his car accident in February 2021, so badly you wondered how he could hit a golf ball 300 yards and through 18 could create holes.

Sobering.

That was the emotion that touched you as you let your mind wander to a point where you wondered how much longer he can do this, if we are seeing the end of an era when Woods is no longer able to keep up at this level.

Tiger Woods hits a drive on the 12th tee in the third round of the PGA Championship.
Tiger Woods hits a drive on the 12th tee in the third round of the PGA Championship.
Getty Images

Why?

That was the question you couldn’t help but wonder why, with 82 career wins, 15 major championships and more money than he’ll ever need, Woods continues to do this to himself.

As Woods completed his third loop and trotted up the grueling hill from the 18th green to the Southern Hills clubhouse, his girlfriend Erica Herman stood quietly at the top of the hill, waiting with Rob McNamara, Wood’s closest confidant.

Tiger Woods crouches to read a putt on the eighth hole of the third round.
Tiger Woods crouches to read a putt on the eighth hole of the third round.
EPA

She was wrapped in a black blanket-like garment with a large white heart and the word “Loved” embroidered on the back, and wore a black bucket hat. Noticing them, she nodded softly to Woods as he limped past her and headed down another hill to the judges’ tent.

Fueled by his urge to make the cut early Friday night, Woods had spoken like someone who still fancied he could win the tournament. He said his hope is to put together the kind of round on Saturday that Bubba Watson delivered on Friday when he shot 63.

Woods unfortunately went the other way, shooting 16 shots higher than Watson. And by the time the carnage was over he had scored a 79, was 12 shots over par for the week and finished last of the 79 players who made it. By the way, Saturday was Woods’ 79th career round in the PGA Championship.

In hindsight, Woods would have preferred to miss Friday’s cut and not make it through Saturday.

To his credit, Woods, 46, refused to use his impaired physical condition or the cold, wet and windy conditions as an excuse.

“I just wasn’t playing well,” Woods told the pool reporter afterwards. “I just didn’t do anything right. I didn’t get a lot of good shots. As a result, I ended up with a pretty high score.”

With thirteen hours left on his impressive second round 69, Woods looked like he was down.

Woods came to Southern Hills this week believing he was stronger, fitter and armed with better endurance than he was at the Masters last month, following his encouraging 71-74 start with 78-78 over the weekend.

However, this week looked very much like a repeat of the Masters.

“It’s very hard to see a guy with so much talent and ability have to fight like that,” said Shaun Norris, the 40-year-old South African with whom Woods was dating on Saturday. “You can see from time to time he was just struggling to get the ball out of the hole, even bending down to put the ball on the tee. You really feel sorry for him.”

A day earlier, Rory McIlroy, who played with Woods in the first two rounds, said that if he had sensed Woods’ appearance, he would have withdrawn from the tournament.

“The determination that the guy has, I mean, it’s phenomenal,” Norris said. “He’s an absolute grinder. He worked through everything and that just shows you how much determination and guts the guy has.

“He’s still hitting the ball great and the game is there. I think he will be back as soon as he is healthy again and has solved all problems.

But will that time ever come again?

That’s a question no one, not even Woods, has an answer to.

https://nypost.com/2022/05/21/tiger-woods-withdrawal-leaves-this-question-will-he-ever-be-the-same-again/ Will he ever be the same again?

JOE HERNANDEZ

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