Woods, wind return to St. Andrews
By Merf under British Open

Winds approaching 50 miles per hour at St. Andrews on Sunday greeted Tiger Woods in his first practice round for this week’s British Open. Woods pulled out just a 3-wood in an attempt to drive the 357-yard 18th hole.

“Nobody can play St. Andrews like this,” Woods said.

Scott Verplank hit a putt on the fourth green 10 feet past the hole, and then watched as the wind blew his ball 20 feet behind him.

Even R&A chief executive Peter Dawson admitted that the British Open could not be contested in such severe conditions.

“We like having a bit of wind, don’t we?” he said. “Just not like this.”

But Dawson didn’t mind hearing that the highest gusts in this week’s forecast are just under 30 mph. That’s a welcomed challenge after 2000 and 2005 at St. Andrews, when the British Open was played in relatively benign conditions.

The wind can be the difference in a winning score of 19-under (2000) and 6-under (1995).

As for Woods’ practice round, no word if he broke 80, but he went out solo with caddie Stevie Williams. There aren’t many other details about his round, but I do find it curious how Woods practices. Someone asked Woods before this year’s U.S. Open if he attempted any practice shots for fun on Carmel Beach, which sits below the cliffs along the 10th hole at Pebble Beach. He quickly shot down the question with a serious “No.”

SI’s Joe Posnanski did probably the best piece I’ve ever read on Woods two years ago, right after Torrey Pines. In it, Posnanski shares a tidbit about a fun outing for American Express sweepstakes winners before the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont. When the group reached the famous Church Pew bunkers, one of the winners asked Woods to hit a shot from there.

“No,” Tiger said.

“Will you teach us how to do it?” someone asked.

“Hit it there,” Tiger said, and he pointed toward the fairway. They asked him again, and Woods again refused. After a few more requests, he did step into the bunker for a photo, but even then he refused to have a golf club in his his hand, and he refused to hit a golf ball out of the bunker. He said he would not hit one out during practice either.

Why not? Because, he said, he had absolutely no intention of being in that bunker. Ever.

“Why bring negativity into your thoughts?” he asked, and nobody had a good answer for that one.

So Woods isn’t going to hit a shot out of the Road Hole bunker or Hell bunker unless he ends up there during the championship? (He didn’t hit into any of the 112 bunkers on the Old Course during his win in 2000.) I can’t really criticize Woods on how he approaches his golf game, but it would seem beneficial to hit practice shots from those spots to best prepare yourself for any circumstance (you never know where 50 mph winds will blow your ball).

And I’d want to hit a shot from the Road Hole bunker just for the story. Especially if St. Andrews was my personal playground for a week!

[AP Photo/Peter Morrison]