The official question on the PGA Tour this year might be the following: Will Tiger Woods win a tournament? It is debated every time Tiger tees it up whether it’s the Masters or the Quicken Loans National. The conversation no longer revolves around his health, but instead, it revolves around if he can learn how to win again on a much more competitive PGA Tour. To the dismay of many, the reoccurring track features flashes of brilliance but often the putter or the driver ruining Tiger’s shot of winning.
But who’s to say he couldn’t walk away with an Open Championship this week?
It sounds far-fetched to say the first Tiger win in almost five years will come at a major, but when it’s broken down it doesn’t seem as ridiculous. With that being said, these are the reasons Woods might be a good pick to lift the Claret Jug at Carnoustie Golf Links.
The experience is unmatched
The PGA Tour is so competitive today because American golf courses are not that hard to figure out. Most courses played on the PGA Tour require target golf. Hit it far then hit it high right at your target and get it to stop on a dime. Relatively speaking, that’s not difficult and every professional golfer is capable of it. Links golf, on the other hand, is a completely different animal. The natural terrain and high winds of Western Europe form golf courses that require finesse, creativity, and deceptive precision. And no one has had more success on the links than Tiger.
Since 1998, Tiger has nine top-10’s in the Open Championship including three wins. At Carnoustie in particular, the 14-time major winner finished in a tie for seventh in 1999 and a tie for 12th in 2007. Experience is crucial when playing links golf. It’s the reason PGA players take part in the Scottish Open the week before the Open and the same reason Tom Watson almost won the 2009 Open at the age of 59. Links golf is hard. Experience is important. Carnoustie is widely recognized as one of the toughest and Tiger has had success on this course.
Tiger won’t have to hit driver
Woods has never been an above average driver of the golf ball. Of course, his driving statistics weren’t awful when he was winning every other tournament, but his ball striking with irons and short game made him better than everybody else. In 2018, Woods is 115th in strokes gained: off-the-tee. He didn’t have faith in the driver to hit it on 18 at the Valspar, and the driver was the reason he never had a chance to win at Shinnecock Hills.
However, the beauty of links golf is that Tiger won’t have to hit driver if he doesn’t want to. he can hit that vintage low stinger that rolls for 100 yards and ultimately puts him in a similar spot that a driver would. But now Tiger can take out the unknown variable of a good week driving the golf ball. When Tiger can hit irons off of tees and hit off the short grass all week, he’s tough to beat.
The greens aren’t the tough part at Carnoustie
Carnoustie is a treacherous track, but relatively speaking the greens aren’t the most difficult part of the golf course. Fairways are deceptively tight with fast conditions, and if you miss them it’s hard to hold the putting surface. But once you’re on the dance floor, the greens are relatively flat. For a player still regaining confidence in the putter, flat greens that won’t be as fast as normal is good. Even for Woods who has historically been better on fast greens. Assuming Tiger’s stinger is working this week, he should be hitting from the fairway more times than not. If he can hit greens in regulation, he will have many good looks at birdie throughout the tournament.
It might seem crazy, but the Open Championship might be one of Tiger’s best chances to win in 2018.