Tiger is 'good to go now'
Tiger Woods studies his putt on the 15th green during the Pro-Am round at the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament at Bay Hill, Wednesday, in Orlando, Fla. (AP photo / March 22, 2012)
"What's going on?" LaCava said, peering into the sun.
He could see Woods flexing his right knee as he paced behind the ball, rubbing his lower back and stretching. Standing over the ball again, Woods let go of the driver before finishing his swing, although the ball wound up in the middle of the fairway.
Was it the left Achilles tendon again? His rebuilt knee? Something else?
The concern didn't last long.
Turns out it was a camera click that made Woods flinch.
"I guess one of the so-called professional photographers took a picture right in the middle of my downswing," Woods said. "I stopped it, and then felt a pretty good twinge in my back. Walked it off and then tried to hit one down there. Hit it in the fairway, but didn't feel very good. But after a couple of holes, it loosened up. And I'm good to go now."
That was the message Woods preached Wednesday on the eve of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his last tournament before the Masters begins on April 5, when he resumes his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus in the majors.
He feels good enough to play golf as many as eight days in a row. Woods revealed that his week started with a trip to Augusta National on Sunday, followed by a two-day exhibition at Lake Nona, the pro-am at Bay Hill and then four days of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Even so, his health figures to be a big topic in the two weeks leading to the Masters.
In his last official tournament, Woods played 11 holes in the final round at Doral before he withdrew because of tightness in the left Achilles tendon, the same one that forced him to miss two majors last year.
"I've had tightness before, but not to that extent," Woods said. "But treatment afterward always gets it right back to where it should be. And that's one of the reasons why I wasn't really that concerned about it, that I would come back and play these events."
Could it happen again?
"It could," Woods said. "But hopefully, it won't."
Palmer was happy to see Woods at his tournament — he has never missed Bay Hill except for when he was returning from the crisis in his personal life in 2010. He, too, is curious about the Masters. Both are four-time champions.
"I think that to win, you have to be on top of your game at Augusta, and there's no question about that," Palmer said. "And so Tiger will have to be. Does it make it more likely that he'll win there? Only in that he will probably work very hard to get his game ... in shape to win. There's certainly that possibility. Will he win? I don't know.
"I'm not sure that I could say that he's in that good of shape right now, but I know he's working for it."
Martin Laird is the defending champion at Bay Hill, where he closed with a 75 for a one-shot win. The field is stronger than expected, with Phil Mickelson, Doral winner Justin Rose, FedEx Cup champion Bill Haas and Graeme McDowell.
Also playing is Ernie Els, trying to recover from two short putts he missed over the last three holes at Innisbrook that might have cost the three-time major champion a trip to the Masters.