Tiger’s back in pain, Sergio (co)leads, all is firm at Bethpage Black
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

That, folks, is what it looks like when you try to play golf with serious lower back pain

Tiger Woods walked with a limp and grimaced in pain (as seen above), but he managed to play through it — and very well — and shot an excellent two-under 69 on Friday afternoon at Bethpage Black. The golf course showed its real face in the second round of The Barclays and conditions were firm and fast (almost major-like with shades of the ’09 U.S. Open).

Coincidentally enough, while Tiger’s back was ailing him, I wasn’t at Bethpage because I spent the day at the doctor’s office getting treatment for my crappy back condition, so that — no joke — I could walk without a limp. I feel your pain, Tiger! I really do. I recommend muscle trigger therapy. I can refer you to my doc in the city.

Well, just let me know, Tig!

So what in the world was wrong with Tiger’s back, anyway? How did he hurt it?

Q. First of all, is it knee, back?
TIGER WOODS:  It’s lower back.

Q.  When did it happen?
TIGER WOODS:  This morning.  Must have slept funny on it.  Soft beds at the hotel, and woke up this morning with it stiff.  You know, as I warmed up, it got progressively worse, and then you saw what happened on the golf course.

Q.  Was it during your warmup or
TIGER WOODS:  No, it hurt all day.  It hurt all day.

Q.  How do you explain that you played well, and it looked like the hardest part of your day was getting the ball out of the hole.
TIGER WOODS:  Well, it was like a section of movement, so it didn’t hurt standing up, it didn’t hurt at the bottom of a squat, but it was the somewhere in between there it was going to catch.  You know, it would grab just before impact, so you’d kind of expect it, so I could get through that.  I’ve been through that kind of stuff before, so I know what it feels like.

Q.  Do you remind yourself of ’08 at Torrey, that you know how to play like this?
TIGER WOODS:  Well, there’s a difference between being in pain and injured.  This is just a little bit of pain.  That was an injury.

That’s actually a very good point and if you don’t get it, then you’ve never been both injured and/or in pain.

Q.  Do you feel like this is your new normal, that you’re never going to have a stretch where you can get through six months or a whole year feeling 100 percent?
TIGER WOODS:  Well, geez, that’s been the case since my first surgery in ’94.

Q.  This isn’t part of the
TIGER WOODS:  I’ve been dealing with this stuff since I was 18.  I had my first cut at Stanford in ’94.

Q.  Does it get harder as you get older?
TIGER WOODS:  Well, it’s harder to recover, there’s no doubt.  There’s no doubt.  But I’m infinitely stronger than I used to be and just as flexible as I used to be, which is very good.

Q.  Do you have any concern that you won’t be able to get this taken care of?
TIGER WOODS:  No, I’m going to go there right now.  They’re good at what they do, and I’ll be ready by tomorrow.

Q.  Did the swing feel as good as it looked?
TIGER WOODS:  That’s about all I’ve got.  I can’t hit it any harder than that.  No, it didn’t feel very good, but I got it around, and just because the swing didn’t feel very good doesn’t mean I can’t make every putt.  I went out there with that kind of mindset and just buried a bunch of putts.

Again I empathize with Tiger. It’s a pain to talk about pain and injuries. I wasn’t going to share my whereabouts today, but it was kind of funny in a way with Tiger’s back and all.

Meanwhile, Sergio Garcia continues his fine play, firing 66-68, eight-under total, to share the 36-hole lead with Nick Watney.

Oh man, I just realized I hadn’t officially congratulated Sergio on WUP because Augusta National hijacked his glory on Monday. So, congrats on winning the Wyndham and making the European Ryder Cup team!

Here are some excerpts from Sergio’s presser after Friday’s round that I found interesting and informative:

Q.  What is it you’re doing better?
SERGIO GARCIA:  It’s a bit of everything.  Obviously we know how much confidence helps in this game.  But it’s feeling better out there, feeling more comfortable with what I’m doing, being able to more or less do the right things.  Obviously getting a few breaks my way obviously helps.  But overall I think if you add all those things up, it helps.

Q.  Do you think walking off yardages yourself is giving you a more informed, comfortable preparation for golf right now?
SERGIO GARCIA:  I don’t think so.  The only good thing that I have about this is that I’m making my decisions, good and bad.  So am I more aware, no.  When I have a professional caddie, obviously he tells me everything that I should know.  Am I more committed to pretty much all my shots?  Yes.  And when I didn’t do it today, it showed up on the 3rd hole.  It’s a hole that I don’t feel very comfortable on it, and it shows up.
But other than that, you don’t have to read more into it.

Q.  How much of a coincidence is it that your best play this year certainly has come with you sort of managing your game as opposed to having that other person?
SERGIO GARCIA:  Well, I don’t know.  Golf is a funny game.  When you think that you have it under control, it kicks you down, and then all of a sudden it gives you something to love it again, I guess.

It’s funny, that’s the way it goes.  Like I said, the good thing about this is that I feel like I’m more committed to some of the things I’m doing.  Obviously if I’m not hitting the shots, then it doesn’t help.  But at least if my commitment is better  you know, sometimes I think my mistake is that sometimes I seem to trust more what I hear than what I feel.  We all know how much of a feel player I am, and I should kind of trust those feelings a bit more.  These couple of weeks, they’re kind of helping me do that, kind of go with what I feel and just try to trust my own feelings a little bit more than sometimes if somebody tells me to do one thing and I just do it for lack of confidence in myself.

Q.  Is playing with instincts and making decisions, does it take you a little bit back to when you were a junior player even?
SERGIO GARCIA:  It does feel funny.  I was talking to Adam yesterday when I was doing all my yardages and stuff.  It does feel like you’re kind of back to your amateur days when you were doing all the things and kind of stepping out all the yardages and all those things.  It is kind of funny.
But sometimes it’s good to go back to the beginning and get a little feel for what you used to do.


Back to the basics. I like that he’s trusting his instincts. He’s always struck me as a feel player. A happy Sergio playing good golf is a really fun combination. And I have a feeling it’s going to be a dramatic and compelling weekend at Bethpage, especially with the course playing so firm and fast.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention: Sergio said after his round that he wasn’t playing the Deutsche Bank Championship next week.

(Getty Images/Kevin C. Cox)