TULSA, Okla. -- When Tiger Woods played the Masters in April, his first official PGA Tour event in nearly 17 months after nearly losing his right leg in a car accident, he said he felt like he was climbing Mount Everest.
"That's the steepest golf course you're going to play and that was the first one you climbed -- and climbed it," Woods said during a news conference Tuesday. "It's going to get flatter and better."
Now, nearly six weeks later, Woods will attempt to win the PGA Championship for the fifth time when play begins at Southern Hills Country Club on Thursday. While Southern Hills might not be as steep and rolling as Augusta National Golf Club, it's hardly flat Oklahoma farmland.
Woods, a 15-time major champion, will play in a featured group with Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth in the first two rounds. The threesome will tee off on No. 10 at 9:11 a.m. ET in Thursday's first round and on No. 1 at 2:36 p.m. Friday in the second.
Other featured groups include Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa, the top three players in the Official World Golf Ranking. They will tee off on No. 1 at 2:36 p.m. ET on Thursday and on No. 10 at 9:11 a.m. Friday. Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay and Justin Thomas will tee off on No. 1 at 2:14 p.m. ET on Thursday and on No. 10 at 8:49 a.m. Friday.
McIlroy, who will attempt to win his first major championship since 2014, expects Woods to be in the mix this week.
"Six weeks is a long enough time to recover from that week and then build yourself back up again," McIlroy said. "He certainly hasn't chosen two of the easiest walks in golf to come back to, Augusta and here. But no, he's stubborn, he's determined. This is what he lives for. He lives for these major championships, and if he believes he can get around 18 holes, he believes he can win."
Woods, 46, last won the PGA Championship at Southern Hills in 2007. Another victory would give him 83 victories in his PGA Tour career, which would break his tie with Sam Snead for most all time.
"We're all happy that Tiger is here, obviously," Rahm said Tuesday. "We're extremely happy. Who would have said over a year ago that he would be competing in major championships again? ... You know, he's Tiger. He's a competitor. He's going to try to win every single time, and anytime he tees up, the world wants him to win."
Woods will be playing in his second official event since he was seriously injured in a car wreck outside Los Angeles on Feb. 23, 2021. He finished 47th at the Masters in April. After shooting 1-under 71 in the first round, he shot 6-over 78 in each of the last two rounds, his worst scores at the Masters. His limp was more noticeable on the weekend; unseasonably cold temperatures didn't help his chances, either.
"It was hurting but I pushed through it," Woods said. "It was more mind than body. I said, 'I've won with a broken leg before. Keep on going out there, keep pushing. I know how to play the golf course.' But it was one of those things, the thing that I was frustrated with is it deteriorated as the week went on. I got more and more tired and more fatigued. I didn't have the endurance that I wanted."
With six more weeks of work, Woods thinks he has a chance to win another Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday.
"I feel like I can, definitely," Woods said. "I just have to go out there and do it. I have to do my work. Starts on Thursday and I'll be ready."
There will also be much attention this week on Spieth, who will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam by winning the PGA Championship. At 28 years old, Spieth would be the third youngest to accomplish the feat in the Masters era, behind only Woods (24) and Jack Nicklaus (26).