LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- In a PGA Championship that has seen players pulling out with injuries left and right, dropping as if they just endured the hell of a Bear Bryant training camp, Tiger Woods deserves a cookie or two for doing what the culture expects our athletes to do.
Playing hurt? Rubbing some dirt on it? Hey, it's the American way.
But as it turned out, Woods had no business competing in a major this week. He said the back spasms that caused him to withdraw at Firestone on Sunday had settled, and that they had nothing to do with the back injury that caused him to undergo significant surgery March 31.
The claim wasn't easy to believe, but it didn't much matter. Woods was giving it a go.
He shot 74 in the first round at Valhalla with a back he said was merely stiff, and then he shot 74 in the second round with a back that felt like a four-alarm fire. Woods hurt it again with one fateful swing of his 4-iron on the practice range Friday.
"Just had to play through it," he said.
He needs to quit playing through it now. He needs to forget about the Ryder Cup, give his back the rest of the year off, and start preparing to stop all this Rory McIlroy madness at Augusta National, the one place the kid hasn't conquered.
What does Woods tell American captain Tom Watson about his status for the Ryder Cup?
"I don't know," he said. "He hasn't called."
Woods should call Watson today, not tomorrow, and tell him to go get 'em in Scotland without him.
This has nothing to do with the fact that Woods isn't exactly Ian Poulter in the Ryder Cup anyway, or that the last time the U.S. beat Europe -- in 2008 here at Valhalla -- Woods wasn't part of the parade; he was recovering from the leg injuries he overcame in beating Rocco Mediate in their epic U.S. Open playoff for his 14th and last major title.
Watson would be a fool not to pick a healthy Woods, 13-17-3 overall Ryder Cup record or no 13-17-3 overall Ryder Cup record. Tiger's one of the two finest players of all time, right there with the guy Watson beat a few times in his day, Jack Nicklaus.
No, this is about what's right for Woods, his body and his lifelong quest to strip the magic from Nicklaus' magic number, 18.
"It was sore," Woods said of his back. "No doubt it was sore."
If a man who admits nothing is admitting his back is sore, he is in fact disclosing a debilitating injury.
"It was telling me on the range it probably wasn't a good idea [to play]," Woods said. "But I'm not exactly a non-stubborn person."
So he looked like a broken man out there Friday on a course Nicklaus designed, hunched and wincing after tee shots and gingerly bending over -- stiff-legged -- to mark his ball or to perform routine housekeeping on the green. On the par-5 seventh, after delivering yet another one-armed follow-through on a drive that careened into a bog, Woods began to reach for his back with his right hand before stopping himself.
He missed fairways and short putts, and when he yanked off his glove or slammed his club into the grass like he did after a lousy bunker shot at No. 4, Woods looked like just another weekend warrior wearing the body language of disgust.