Updated: August 6, 2014 3:27PM
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It all happened so fast. At noon, a one-sentence email from PGA tournament officials announced that Tiger Woods was at Valhalla.
Ninety minutes later, he was hitting balls on the range. Shortly after 2 p.m., he teed off on No. 1 in front of a gallery that probably won’t be much larger if he’s in the final group when the PGA wraps up here on Sunday.
A huge crowd followed him over to the first tee, where he played with Steve Stricker, his frequent Ryder Cup partner; 2012 Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III and Harris English.
After striping a long drive down the middle of the fairway on the 446-yard first hole, Woods knocked his approach close, far closer than any of playing partners.
The huge gallery, which already had erupted for his tee shot, roared its approval for his second shot and clamored toward the green.
Back permitting, Woods is scheduled to play at 7:35 a.m. on Thursday with Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington.
It was a quick turn of events for Woods, whose ability to play at the PGA had been in doubt. Continuing an injury-riddled stretch in his career, Woods, 38, aggravated a back injury on Sunday at Firestone in Akron and withdrew midway through his round. He was making only his third tournament appearance since undergoing back surgery on March 31.
When Woods canceled his Tuesday pre-tournament press conference and failed to arrive at Valhalla, it was widely assumed that he would be able to play here. The PGA, which had asked players to register by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, left the door open, however, allowing Woods and five others extensions until their first-round tee times.
Woods showed no signs of pain on the practice range, where he went through an extensive warmup under the guidance of his swing coach, Sean Foley.