New Zealand

No fans a hurdle for Tiger Woods at PGA Championship, says Steve Williams

Accomplished caddie Steve Williams believes the US PGA Championship's lack of atmosphere will be an added challenge for former boss Tiger Woods when he resumes his chase of Jack Nicklaus' record 18 major wins this week.

All eyes will be on Woods, the star attraction at the first major of a golf season ravaged by the coronavirus, when play begins on Friday (NZ time) at San Francisco's TPC Harding Park.

Kiwi Steve Williams was on the bag for 13 of Tiger Woods’ 15 major victories.

Tim Hales/NZPA

Kiwi Steve Williams was on the bag for 13 of Tiger Woods’ 15 major victories.

Covid-19 restrictions forced officials to cancel July's British Open and to shift the PGA Championship from May to August, the US Open from June to September and the Masters from April to November.

Significantly, fans have been excluded from attending the PGA Championship and US Open, while officials have yet to make a call about crowds at Augusta National.

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Four-time PGA Championship winner Woods has played just one tournament since the US PGA Tour resumed from a 90-day shutdown but his usually gigantic galleries won't be there to fire him up.

"When you haven't played a lot of tournament golf and you get to an event with a lot of hype around it like the PGA, the atmosphere is generated by the fans and that can really get your competitive juices flowing," Williams told AAP from his New Zealand home.

Williams, 56, was on the bag for 13 of Woods' 15 major victories, as well as Australian Adam Scott's historic Masters win in 2013.

"Majors have a different feel from regular PGA Tour events; there is a real buzz about them," Williams said.

"With that element missing, for someone who hasn't played a lot of tournament golf this year, it'll be challenging for Tiger to find that spark he needs."

Steve Williams believes Tiger Woods will miss not being able to feed off the crowd’s energy.

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Steve Williams believes Tiger Woods will miss not being able to feed off the crowd’s energy.

Woods did not contest the 2015 World Golf Championships-Match Play, the last tournament held at the 7200-yard Harding Park layout.

But the 44-year-old has an otherwise exceptional record at the San Francisco public course, having won the 2005 WGC American Express there.

Woods also won all five of his matches at the 2009 Presidents Cup at Harding Park, leading the US team to a dominant victory over the Internationals.

"Back then, Harding Park was a course that required a strict strategy and that was something Tiger was exceptionally disciplined at doing," Williams said.

But a soft and damp Harding Park will be defenceless and Woods will need to blast drivers to keep up with big-hitting former PGA Championship winners Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas and resurgent Australian Jason Day.

That won't be easy to do with cool temperatures forecast for San Francisco this week presenting an obstacle for Woods, who has had four back surgeries.

However, Williams says Woods will always be a threat at major championships.

"If he is in the tournament he is going to give it 110 per cent; he loves the challenge of trying to win majors and he treats every single major as a significant opportunity to add to his record."

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