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Tiger: I'm pain-free and ready to win PGA Championship

Rickie Fowler photobombs the arrival of Tiger Woods, back left, at Valhalla Golf Club for the PGA Championship. Woods’ arrival drew a media horde with speculation high about his participation after he withdrew Sunday from a tournament with back pain.

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Rickie Fowler photobombs the arrival of Tiger Woods, back left, at Valhalla Golf Club for the PGA Championship. Woods’ arrival drew a media horde with speculation high about his participation after he withdrew Sunday from a tournament with back pain.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — This we know after a breathless day of Tiger tracking that even featured a slightly premature news release that he had arrived on the grounds of Valhalla Golf Club:

Tiger Woods tied his shoes without grimacing Wednesday. While laughing and joking with Davis Love III on the practice range, he picked up tees in the same fashion. And his legendary competitiveness and defiance remained intact, three days after his surgically repaired back balked.

"Yes," Woods said when asked if he can win the 96th PGA Championship that begins today.

Woods said he would tee off from No. 10 with Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington at 8:35 a.m. on a par-71 layout that designer Jack Nicklaus has altered since Woods captured the second of his four PGA Championships at Valhalla in 2000.

That Woods is even here after withdrawing from the final round of the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday speaks to his desire to finally bag his 15th major and also make the Ryder Cup team as a captain's pick.

Last seen having difficulty removing his shoes after withdrawing, Woods said what happened Sunday was unrelated to his March 31 back surgery to address a pinched nerve.

"Basically, when I landed in the bunker, my sacrum went out," Woods said. "It pinched the nerve, and hence the spasms. My (physical therapist) put it back in. We've just been treating it, some soft-tissue work. Once the bone was put back in, the spasms went away and I started getting some range of motion."

Woods said he decided to play at Valhalla on Tuesday afternoon when his "firing sequence was back to normal" and his "sequencing was good." Woods said he is pain-free.

The will-he-or-won't-he angle created a surreal day. It featured photographs of his empty parking space, Twitter announcements of his arrival and commentary on the Golf Channel that simply by showing up, Woods "is bringing a tremendous amount of joy to people around the world." His practice round was chronicled live on Twitter by dozens of media outlets. A boom microphone followed Woods onto each tee box.

Woods said he played "all right" on the front nine and then walked the back nine with his putter and wedges to assess the redone greens. He joked his yardage and course book from 2000 is "useless."

Some might apply that same adjective to Woods' injury-plagued season, although his colleagues and competitors understand what his presence means.

"If you win a big tournament without Tiger in the field, you still feel very happy about it," 2014 U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer said. "But you want to play against him."

Said Rickie Fowler, who owns top-five finishes in the first three 2014 majors: "The game still does need him. He's a big draw. A lot of people still love watching him play."

Woods is not eligible for the FedEx Cup playoffs, and he hasn't given U.S. captain Tom Watson much reason to pick him for the Ryder Cup. Woods said he would have to "play well" to give reason for Watson to take him.

"That's the only thing I can control," Woods said. "Try to go out there and win this event. That's all I'm focused on."

.fast facts

Tracking Tiger

Tiger Woods was scheduled to tee off for today's first round of the PGA Championship with Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington at 8:35 a.m. Watch the round, starting before TV coverage of the tournament, at pga.com/pgachampionship.

Tiger: I'm pain-free and ready to win PGA Championship 08/06/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 10:26pm]

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