Tiger Woods' competitiveness and defiance remained intact, three days after his surgically repaired back balked.

"Yes," Woods said, when asked if he can win the 96th PGA Championship that begins Thursday at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky.

Woods said he'll tee off from No. 10 with Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington at 5:35 a.m. on a par-71 layout that designer Jack Nicklaus has altered since Woods won the second of his four PGA Championships in 2000.

That Woods is even here after withdrawing from the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational on Sunday speaks to his desire to finally bag his 15th major and also make the U.S. Ryder Cup team as a captain's pick.

Last seen having difficulty removing his shoes after withdrawing at Firestone Country Club, Woods said what happened in Ohio is unrelated to his March 31 back surgery to address a pinched nerve.

"Basically when I landed in the bunker (after following through on a shot at the second hole), my sacrum went out," Woods said. "It pinched the nerve and hence the spasms. My physio put it back in. We've just been treating it, some soft-tissue work. ... Once the bone was put back in, the spasms went away and I started getting some range of motion."

The will-he-or-won't-he angle created a surreal Wednesday that included photographs of his empty parking space at Valhalla.

Woods last won a major at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.


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Woods, who tied for 69th at the British Open last month in his only major of the season, said he decided to play at Valhalla on Tuesday afternoon when his "firing sequence was back to normal" and his "sequencing was good." And Woods must feel fine -- he fired off a playful tweak at the media when he declared himself "pain-free, except for the headache of talking to you (reporters)."

  • Jason Dufner arrived at Valhalla with an aching neck and not much hope of lifting the Wanamaker Trophy for the second year in a row. At best, he hopes to play well enough to lock up a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. "I feel sore," he said. "But I'll get through it."

  • Steve Stricker will be one of Tom Watson's assistants at the Ryder Cup. Watson had previously announced Andy North and Raymond Floyd. The U.S. will try to dethrone Europe on Sept. 26-28 at Gleneagles in Scotland.

  • Alameda's Grace Na and Stanford teammates Mariah Stackhouse, Lauren Kim and Casey Danielson won first-round matches at the U.S. Women's Amateur in Glen Cove New York. Na, a former Pepperdine star, ousted Karah Sanford 3 and 2 at the par-70 Nassau Country Club. Stackhouse edged Chakansim Khamborn in 20 holes, and Kim beat Saki Iida 4 and 2. Stackhouse and Kim will meet in a second-round match Thursday. Danielson topped Seshia-Lei Telles 6 and 4.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.