Fresh off his commanding seven-shot win at the WGC-Bridgestone last Sunday, Tiger Woods is right back in the hot seat and prepping for his last chance in 2013 to break his winless drought at majors.
Obviously, winning tournaments isn’t easy — despite how Tiger and Phil Mickelson have made it look in the past decade or so — and majors are even tougher. Tiger has always said that all majors are hard to win, but he admitted on Tuesday at Oak Hill that no. 15 has been even more difficult to attain.
“It kind of seems that way,” said Woods when asked if winning his 15th major has been tougher than the others. “It’s been probably the longest spell that I’ve had since I hadn’t won a major championship. I came out here very early and got my first one back in ’97.
“I’ve had, certainly, my share of chances to win. I’ve had my opportunities there on the back nine on those probably half of those Sundays for the last five years where I’ve had a chance, and just haven’t won it. But the key is to keep giving myself chances, and eventually I’ll start getting them.”
Woods has won five events this year, including two World Golf Championships: The Farmers Insurance Open, the WGC-Cadillac Championship, The Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Invitational, The Players Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. That’s a fantastic year, but for Tiger, it’s not quite complete without a major.
“I think winning one major championship automatically means you had a great year,” he said. “Even if you miss the cut in every tournament you play in; you win one, you’re part of history.
“This year, for me, I think it’s been a great year so far for me, winning five times, and you look at the quality of tournaments I’ve won, a PLAYERS and two World Golf Championships in there, that’s pretty good.”
Would it still be a good year if he doesn’t win the PGA Championship this week?
“Yeah, I think so,” he said. “We certainly have, what, four more big events after this. A lot of things can happen, but I’m focused on this week and trying to win this one.”
I’d bet a lot of money that Tiger would trade in all his non-major victories over the last five years for one major.
While he hasn’t been able to come through on Sundays to win, he’s still been in the mix frequently at majors this year, including the Masters and the Open Championship, which might be more frustrating than being completely out of contention.
“Frustrating part is I’ve been there and didn’t win two of the tournaments that I was right there in,” said Woods. “You know, one, I hit a flagstick and I was leading the tournament and ended up getting obviously a penalty there, and that was a tough round on Saturday, but got it around and shot under par, and put myself there with a chance on Sunday and didn’t get it done.”
As you may have heard, Oak Hill is an extremely challenging track, where ballstriking is premium. That said, the course should suit Woods, whose iron play has been spectacular.
“It’s tough,” said Woods, referring to Oak Hill. “It’s right in front of you. Really, no surprises out there. You just have to play well. This is one of those courses where you’ve just got to bring it ballstriking-wise. You’ve got to hit the ball well..
“It’s playing quick. These fairways, especially on the left side, they obviously cut it downgrain on the left side so you can get a lot of chase to it. Some of the holes, you run out of room quick. It’s playing, even though it’s a little bit longer than what it was in ’03, it might be playing a little bit shorter because it is drier. The balls are really running out there.
“How I’m going to attack is I I’m just going to play to my little sections and go from there. I just think that depends on wind and some of the holes, how far I decide to go down on some of these fairways. Obviously sometimes I may lay back with a 5wood or 3wood on some of these tees.”
Tiger described his plan of attack and strategy in playing Oak Hill.
“There are a few holes in which you’re looking at making birdies, on that back nine, especially,” he said. 11 is a short hole. 14 is a short hole. Even 13, you’re going to have a wedge in there. So there’s a few opportunities where you’re going to have wedges in your hands and you’re going to try to make birdies. But the penalty for going and being a little too aggressive is harsh; it’s very severe.
“14 is drivable. I couldn’t get there today, because it was 300, the wind was kicking up and it was into me. I can’t hit it 300 yards into the wind in the air, so I laid up. The finishing holes with 17 and 18 are tough holes. Now, today, I hit driver right down the middle of the fairway on 17, ended up in the rough because a little downwind, it gets over that crest and it’s out of here, so I hit 3wood down there and hit a 5iron on the green. And 18, I hit a 3wood and a 7iron on there.”
Oh, and Woods got a putting lesson from his pal Steve Stricker on Monday. Remember what happened the last time the two worked together on the greens? Yeah, Tiger blew away the field at Doral.
“Steve and I were talking about putting, and some of the things that he likes to believe and he feels,” said Tiger. “I’ve actually got to flip it around because he feels everything in his left hand and I feel everything in my right hand, but we believe in how the blade swings and how it moves. I wanted him to take a look at my angles of my shoulders and my arms, facial rotation, things of that nature. You just have to think in reverse with him, because obviously everything is based on his left hand and everything for me in my putting is based on my right hand.”
Everyone can thank Stricker later.
Meanwhile, Woods, who had his son to celebrate with him last Sunday, and naturally, inquiring minds are curious if Tiger is already giving Charlie golf lessons.
“Whatever he decides, he decides,” said Woods. “If he did decides to play golf, so be it. If he decides to play another sport or not play any sports; as long as he’s happy and he enjoys his life, I’m there to support and guide him in his life, and that’s what it’s all about.
“I was in a different situation with my dad. People think that he pushed me into golf, and it was the exact opposite. He was trying to get me not to play it. Go play baseball. Okay, I’d go play base ball, I pitched. I can’t wait to get out of this so I can go play golf. I would run track and cross-country and I would run home fast to get to the golf course, those type of things.
“I fell in love with golf at an early age; that was just my deal. I think the reason I did fall in love with it was because my dad kept it fun and light, and I just enjoyed being out there. That’s what I want to do with Sam or Charlie, if they play golf, no lessons. We are just going to go out there and just have fun, hit it around, laugh and needle each other. He’s only four years old, but he still gives me a little bit of grief, which is good stuff.”