Belfast Telegraph

Tiger Woods arrives at Valhalla to test his fitness

By Phil Casey

Tiger Woods finally arrived at Valhalla Golf Club yeserday to begin his preparations for the 96th US PGA Championship.

Woods' participation was in serious doubt after he withdrew from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational during Sunday's final round, the former world number one looking in severe pain from his back after hitting his tee shot on the ninth hole.

The 38-year-old, who underwent back surgery on March 31, teed off in front of a packed grandstrand at 2:15pm local time alongside his good friend Steve Stricker, former Ryder Cup captain Davis Love and Harris English.

Woods won the US PGA the last time it was staged here in 2000, but did not play in the Ryder Cup in 2008 and the course has since undergone extensive renovation led by designer Jack Nicklaus.

Earlier, Stricker was announced as Tom Watson's third and final vice-captain for the Ryder Cup, joining Andy North and Ray Floyd. Watson has previously said he would pick Woods for the team if he was healthy and playing well, but admitted Sunday's withdrawal had moved the goalposts.

"I can't tell you what's going to happen with Tiger," Watson said. "I am encouraged (that he showed up at Valhalla). He said to me he really wants to make the team in the worst way. This Ryder Cup is a big thing and these players really want to make the team and bring that cup back to the United States. After what happened at Medinah (Europe winning from 10-6 down), I'd be the same way."

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