LOUISVILLE (AFP) - Tiger Woods shook off back spasms in only three days to play in the 96th PGA Championship, but his struggles off the tee could have him out by the weekend.
Looking less like a 14-time major champion and more like a 38-year-old with a recent history of nagging injuries, Woods fired a three-over par 74 Thursday to stand nine strokes off the pace.
"It wasn't very good," Woods said. "A lot of bad shots and I never got a putt to the hole. I hit all my lines. Just for some reason I thought they were going to be a little bit quicker and I didn't make the adjustment well enough.
"I had plenty of looks to turn my round around and post something even par, even under par." More in danger of missing the cut than making a run at the lead, Woods was confident the gap would close Friday.
"If I get under par for two rounds, that will be right in the ball game," he said.
Spraying shots beyond cart paths and into dense rough, Woods showed no outward sign of the back spasms that forced him to withdraw from the last round of a World Golf Championships event Sunday.
Asked if he thought that injury contributed to his weak play Thursday at Valhalla - a course where he won the 2000 PGA title - Woods replied, "It is what it is. I have the same opportunity as everybody else and just didn't get it done."
Woods underwent back surgery March 31 to ease a pinched nerve but also said the setback, which kept him sidelined nearly four months, didn't hurt him in round one.
"It's a little stiff," Woods said of his back. "The surgery part is fine. That's all good." Woods had been confident on the driving range before the round began.
"On the range, my swing was dialed in," he said. Unfortunately, I didn't carry it to the golf course."
Woods began on the 10th tee and took early bogeys on the par-3 11th and 14th, each time missing the green and a 13-foot putt but he holed out from 34 yards for his lone birdie.
"I didn't hit a good shot but at least had a good chance," Woods said. "I just didn't know if I could carry it far enough with that ball being buried."
Woods took bogeys at one and two thanks to exceedingly errant tee shots, a curse and club slam into the ground following the second bad miss, then parred his way to the clubhouse.