The Open 2015: Five things we learnt about TigerJuly, 2015
Woods confident in his quest for a 15th Major
One thing you can guarantee at the Open is that Tiger Woods will fill out the room for his pre-championship press conference. In previous years this occasion has been something of a let-down, this year he looked relaxed, the body language was open and he’s quietly confident about his chances.
Tiger’s best finish this year is a tie for 17th at Augusta, otherwise his 32nd place at the Greenbrier has been the other cause for some optimism.
Less good were the 82 in Phoenix, the 85 at Muirfield Village and the 80 at the US Open.
A win, it would seem to most of us, looks some way off. But Tiger still has his eyes fixed on Jack Nicklaus’ 18 Majors despite last winning a tournament at the Bridgestone in August 2013. The last Major W came over seven years ago.
“I’m still young. I’m not 40 yet. I know some of you guys think I’m buried and done, but I’m still right here in front of you. I love playing. I love competing, and I love playing these events.”
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Tiger needs to hole more putts and he’s hoping that a couple of changes will help him to find the bottom of the cup more often.
The 39-year-old has changed his set-up – “my lines were slightly off” – and he has regripped his putter. The feel, he hopes, will improve.
“After a certain amount of time, the grip does become smaller, and we were having to towel it off before every putt, and that gets annoying.
“So I decided to put a fresh one on there, and when it’s fresh like that, it’s just slightly bigger. I’ve used that grip for probably maybe a year-and-a-half or so, so you can see my indentations of my fingers and that’s probably a time when it’s time to change it.”
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Getting your angles right
When Tiger won his Opens at St Andrews in 2000 and 2005 he broke par in all eight rounds – 67-66-67-69-66-67-71-70. The victories were by eight and five shots.
The first thing he was told about the Old Course was to hit it hard and aim left, away from all the trouble.
And, as we know, this isn’t the way to do it.
“That’s basically not how you play the golf course. You need to have the right angles. Over the years of learning how to play the course under all different type of wind conditions, it changes greatly, and it’s based on angles. You have to put the ball on certain sides of the fairways in order to get the ball close. To me that type of thinking and the strategy that goes into that is something I’ve always loved.”
And if that means playing to a different fairway then so be it.
“Sometimes you’ve got to play into adjacent fairways. That’s not something you try and do on purpose back in the States. I’ve hit shots in adjacent fairways but never on purpose, but here, it does work to your advantage at times because then that will give you actually the best angle. It’s also sometimes the shortest route to carry bunkers or mounds or rough.”
‘I know some of you guys think I’m buried and done, but I’m still right here in front of you’ – Tiger
St Andrews is green and playing soft and unlike Woods’ previous visits here. And we can expect things to get even slower with the rain that is forecast for Friday.
“Yesterday I had two wedge shots actually backed up, and I can’t remember ever backing up a wedge shot here. I think we’re going to have to fly the ball a little bit deeper into the greens. You can’t quite chase it like we normally do.”
And if Tiger could have one wish it would be to play the course the wrong way round.
“Before I die I want to play it one time backwards. I want to play from 1 to 17, 2 to 16. I think that would be just a blast because I can see how certain bunkers — why would they put that there? And then if you play it backwards, you see it. It’s very apparent. That’s totally in play.”
Can he win?
According to the man himself it’s the usual positive noises with his back being finally healed and the swing changes taking shape.
The chipping concerns of six months ago are no longer talked about and he was top of the ‘proximity to the hole’ stats at Greenbrier. Things are looking up again for the 40-1 shot.
“I had some pretty apparent flaws in my technique. That’s one of the reasons why I shut it down after Torrey and Pebble and consequently I was able to turn things around, and I had a chance to win the Masters this year. We made another shift at Memorial, and it worked out perfectly.
“At Greenbrier I hit the ball the best I’ve hit it in probably two years on Sunday. I’ve hit the ball just as well then in my practice rounds. I’m playing better. I’m hitting the ball much, much more solid.”