Tiger Woods is ready to play golf again, just three days after it appeared his season was over.
The 14-time major winner pulled into Valhalla on Tuesday afternoon, and mere moments after he parked his courtesy car in the spot reserved for him, it was as if someone had stepped on a wasp's nest.
Security people scuttled around. Photographers shuttered their lenses. TV cameras, which had been staking out the parking spot as if it was Geraldo's safe, jumped to life and reporters jostled to hear his first words as if he'd just returned from the moon.
At one point, prior to Woods' arrival, Rory McIlroy rolled in with his courtesy car, rolled down the window and jokingly asked the assembled horde: "Who are you guys waiting for?"
He then laughed and maneuvered his car into its reserved spot.
But Woods wasn't coming back from the moon or even a year away; he was merely returning from a tweaked back on Sunday. Not the portion of his back he had surgically repaired in March, mind you. Nope. This was a different part of the back that, according to Woods, popped out of place when he stepped awkwardly into a bunker at the Bridgestone Invitational after hitting a shot.
"Basically when I landed on the bunker, my sacrum went out," said Woods, sending most within earshot to Google sacrum. "So [I] pinched the nerve and hence the spasm. My physio put it back in and we've just been treating it."
Woods spent some time on the range where the horde of TV cameras reassembled to capture his swings, just in case that sacrum did pop out again. But nothing as exciting as that happened. He and coach Sean Foley simply worked on his swing and the balls soared down to the far end.
Then, joined by pals Davis Love III and Steve Stricker, Woods headed out onto the front nine, a mass of people following along. If there was any other spectator on the golf course, it was hard to locate them; most were following along as Woods hit shot after shot without a grimace or a twitch.
"I felt pretty good about how I played and the shots I hit," he said after the nine. "I need to get more feel for how this golf course is playing. I'm not used to seeing the chipping areas like this. We didn't have that in 2000."
That would be the year that Woods won his fifth major on this course, holding off Bob May in a playoff. That was nine majors and about a dozen major ailments ago. There might have been another sacrum pop-out during that period but we're not quite sure.
The fact that Woods is playing the PGA Championship is good news for fans and for television. Certainly the golf world was on the edge of its collective seat awaiting his decision. The media fed the beast with shots of Tiger's empty parking space and of caddie Joe LaCava walking the course alone checking yardages, a solitary figure without a bag.
Just a day earlier, there was talk of a new era with Rory McIlroy being crowned the new king. Well, that may be the case on the course, but off it? Tiger is still the undisputed ruler. No one turns the volume up as he does.
Now we'll see if Woods can find a golf swing. He hasn't shown anything that resembles the guy who won here in 2000 since returning to play in July following his microdiscectomy. He's been mediocre and inconsistent.
It all makes you wonder what he's doing here, and, in some strange fashion, just what the fascination with his return is all about. You have to wonder if it would just make sense for him to shut it all down and start again in the New Year. To get healthy for the first time in a long time and to not have to worry whether his sacrum is about to pop out or whether he'll get another stress fracture or if his neck might twinge.
Nope, he'll play here and he is in full belief that he can win. Stranger things have happened for sure. We just witnessed one on Wednesday.