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TULSA, Okla. — A visibly ailing Tiger Woods limped down the 16th fairway after thrilling the gallery with a 37-foot birdie putt on No. 15 when a voice rang out of the cool, damp air.
"We're still with you Tiger," someone yelled.
The encouragement, though, did not work.
A drained, pained Tiger withdrew from the PGA Championship Saturday after completing his round of 79, marking his first withdrawal from a major in his professional career. Tiger carded seven bogeys, a triple and that highlight birdie to come in at 12-over for the tournament, falling into a tie for last place among those who made the cut.
The 46-year-old, 15-time major winner, whose battered body is held together by hardware in some areas, had hinted he might not return when asked about it following his round.
"Well, I'm sore," he said. "I know that is for a fact. We'll do some work and see how it goes."
Tiger had not withdrawn from a tournament since the 2019 Northern Trust.
As difficult as this has been, deep down Tiger probably is not surprised. He had a blueprint of sorts of what to expect from his first tournament since nearly losing his leg in an auto accident 15 months ago when he made the cut at the Masters before limping in with a pair of 78s. He worked his way into the weekend at Southern Hills with a 1-under 69 Friday, five shots better than his opening round, before nearly recording a round in the 80s for just the fifth time in his career.
Now, having labored through a day in which the temperature hovered in the high 50s his entire round, likely playing a part in Tiger's decision was today's forecast for 50 degrees when he would have teed off.
With absolutely nothing to prove, who can blame Tiger for heading home to Jupiter Island and reassesses his game plan? Tiger is vulnerable. He even admitted Tuesday he will be challenged walking golf courses "for the foreseeable future." But nobody is judging him by his golf game now, or ever again. His determination has his peers in awe.
"You feel so sorry for him having to go through this," said South African Shaun Norris, Tiger's playing partner Saturday.
"But then again, you also see the type of person that he is that he grinds through everything and pushes himself, even all the pain and that. It's not easy to see a guy like him have to go through that and struggle like that."
Tiger's focus after he had to be extricated from his vehicle that February day near Los Angeles and required extensive surgery to save his leg, first was about quality of life. When that fear was overcome he could start thinking about golf, but not the golf that made him the most iconic figure in the game.
Tiger played at least 18 tournaments once in the past 17 years. Now, he's focusing on four.
"I'm not going to be playing a lot of tournaments going forward," he said after Friday's round. "They're going to be the biggest tournaments. I want to be able to play the major championships."
Next up is the U.S. Open, starting June 16 at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Tiger was 1-over entering the 218-yard, par-3 sixth hole Saturday before his day turned as miserable as the weather. His tee shot landed in the creek to the left of the green. After taking a drop he finally hit the green on his fifth shot and made a 2-foot putt for a triple bogey.
Six bogeys on the next seven holes followed.
"I couldn't get off the bogey train there, or other train, too," he said. "I didn't do anything right. I didn't hit many good shots. Consequently, I ended up with a pretty high score."
One of those good shots was the putt on 15 after hitting one of just six fairways. That birdie meant he would not be double digits over par on the day.
And that one shot made it all worthwhile for those still caught up in the Tiger Mania.
"I'm so happy I saw the ball go in," said one young fan.
Tiger was not alone when it came to high scores. Robert MacIntyre shot an 80. Sepp Straka, the 2022 Honda Classic champion, equaled Tiger's 79.
The other end saw a ridiculous 65 from Webb Simpson, who improved his score by 10 shots from Friday with an eagle, five birdies and two bogeys. He called it one of his top "two or three best rounds in a major" considering the cool, breezy conditions, which resembled a British Open more than a PGA Championship.
"Today was a test of the mind as well as physically because we have a mist out there all day, clubface is getting a little wet, it's blowing sideways," Simpson said. "We've gone from 92 degrees to what we had today, so the ball is going way shorter. ... there's a lot of adjusting on the fly.
"I typically don't like to play when it's colder weather, so I surprised myself a bit today. But I'll take it."
Southern Hills Country Club, Tulsa, Oklahoma
9 a.m., ESPN; 1 p.m., CBS
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Tiger Woods withdraws from PGA Championship after third-round 79