LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Before back problems materialized again for Tiger Woods, putting his immediate playing future -- and beyond -- in doubt, he played his best round of golf since returning from March 31 surgery.
On Thursday, Woods shot a 2-under-par 68 at Firestone Country Club, a round that included an assortment of good and bad but mostly positive results given the relatively early comeback.
All of that seemingly meant little after Woods limped off the course in pain Sunday, unable to finish the final round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
And the outcome was certainly unfortunate given that Woods' comeback was seemingly progressing, according to Martin Kaymer. The U.S. Open champion played with Woods during the first two rounds at Firestone.
"The first nine, he hit some amazing shots, a couple of iron shots to tap-ins," said Kaymer, who also won the 2010 PGA Championship and is competing in the year's final major this week at Valhalla Country Club. "And he hit some shots that were fairly away from the target.
"It's very difficult to describe his game right now. I think he was very unlucky with a lot of putts as well. What I was very impressed about was the chipping. The way he chipped them was so pure. He just nipped them off the ground. For me, it's probably the best chipping action. It just looks so easy and so much [in] control."
Whether Woods will be able to demonstrate those skills this week remains up in the air. The PGA of America said Tuesday that Woods requested an extension on his registration time. The deadline was 5 ET on Tuesday. Players who have requested an extension have until the start of play on Thursday to register. Woods is one of several players who requested the extra time.
Woods is scheduled to begin the first round at 8:35 a.m. ET along with Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington. John Huh moved up to first alternate after Shawn Stefani entered the field in place of David Toms, who withdrew because of a back injury.
Kaymer has played many rounds with Woods since capturing the 2010 PGA Championship, including the 2013 Abu Dhabi Championship, where Kaymer unwittingly played a part in Woods' receiving a 2-stroke penalty. During the second round, Woods asked Kaymer whether he could take a drop from a plugged lie, and Kaymer approved -- only to learn later that Woods took an improper drop, resulting in a 2-stroke penalty that caused Woods to miss the cut.
"Obviously, everybody wants him to be back at the golf tournaments," Kaymer said. "If you win a big tournament without Tiger in the field, you still feel very happy about it, but you want to play against him. He brings a lot of people into it; it has a different flair. And obviously everybody here knows as well, when Tiger's playing a golf tournament, there's more work for you guys [media], more entertainment, more people. It brings a little bit more into a golf tournament.
"It's such a shame that he had to pull out last week ... and everybody hopes that he will come back and play this week."
Kaymer, who won the Players Championship in May and the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 by 8 strokes, disclosed that he had his own injury issues leading into the Open Championship, where he dealt with a shoulder problem and finished behind Woods.
Ranked 12th in the world, Kaymer has mostly struggled since the U.S. Open, with a missed cut and two finishes outside the top 50.
"The shoulder was quite surprising for me because I couldn't really hit one normal golf shot until Thursday morning at the Open," he said. "So my practice rounds were very, very limited. It just came out of nowhere. Like everyone else, once in a while you wake up and you have something, and that happened to me. But everything is fine."
As for Woods, his status remains unresolved.
"If I had injuries like this, I would probably make really, really sure that I'm healthy," Kaymer said.