It’s almost hard to believe, but the last time Tiger Woods won a major championship was in 2008. In ’08, Maurice Cheeks was head coach of the 76ers, Brian Dawkins was wearing an Eagles uniform, and the Phillies were winning the World Series. Yeah, it’s been that long.
Woods is on the comeback trail though. He has four PGA Tour wins under his belt this year already to build off of his three from 2012, this after winning none at all for two straight years. Clearly Tiger has recovered, and he is on the prowl.
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A healthy, scandal-free Tiger Woods is probably the favorite to win any tournament in which he participates, and the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club this week is no different. Those of us who have not experienced the privilege of playing there have heard what a challenging course it is, but it is short, especially by Open standards at 6,996 yards – a length Golf analysts say could work to Woods’ advantage.
In Mark Cannizzaro’s Tiger-centric preview of the Open, the New York Post writer examined why Merion could be the place where Woods finally picks up his 15th major victory, and renews his quest to surpass Jack Nicklaus’ mark of 18.
Merion should set up well for Woods for two reasons: 1, the weakest part of his game is his driver, and using a driver is not necessary on many Merion holes; and 2, no one thinks his way around the course better than Woods.
Woods’ victory at The Players Championship last month seemed to provide a blueprint of how he will play Merion. Woods surgically maneuvered his way around the tight and treacherous Sawgrass Stadium Course using many irons off tees to position himself for easier approach shots, hitting a driver only once in the final round.
Because Woods was striking his irons beautifully and putting well, it worked to perfection.
“Any time you can give Tiger a course that he doesn’t need to use his driver, I think, is to his advantage,” NBC golf analyst Johnny Miller said. “The way he won The Players Championship is very similar to what he’s going to do at Merion. If he doesn’t have to hit the driver, I think he’s going to be tough to beat.”
Of course, Tiger still has to go out and actually win the thing, which is always much easier said than done in this game. While he put up a solid effort at the Masters this year (tied for fourth), Augusta ultimately proved uncooperative, extending his slump to 0-for-15 in majors.
Whether you root for him or against him, Woods is always one of the guys you follow, and Cannizzaro says the pressure will be on this week. We’ll find out whether or not he's all the way back in greatest-golfer-in-the-world form.