Will Tiger be toothless or claws bared at Open?By Jim Slater
LYTHAM, England – Tiger Woods has produced tantalyzing glimpses of the form that made him a 14-time major champion, but no definite sign that he is prepared to add to that title haul at next week’s British Open.
Woods won his third US PGA event of the year on July 1 at the National, following triumphs at the Memorial in June and Arnold Palmer Invitational back in March to snap a 17-month win drought following his infamous sex scandal.
“I remember there was a time when people were saying I could never win again,” Woods said. “Here we are.”
But Woods has also missed the cut for only the eighth and ninth times in his 17-year pro career, failing to make the weekend at Charlotte in May and last week’s Greenbrier Classic.
And Woods has had disappointing results in the majors this year, sharing 40th at the Masters and 21st at the US Open, where he excited fans by leading after 36 holes only to falter in the final rounds.
While he leads the US PGA money list with $4.2 million and is the top-ranked American player in the world at fourth, Woods has not shown he has the game to once again capture a major title as he prepares to face Royal Lytham.
“It’s something I’ve done over the years, I’ve won major championships, and I haven’t done it since ’08,” Woods said. “We all go through periods where that doesn’t happen. Some periods are entire careers.
“But I understand how to win major championships. The key is giving yourself opportunities on the back nine on Sunday every time. You’re not going to win them all but if you’re there, a lot chances are you’re going to win your share.”
Woods, chasing the all-time record of 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus, has won the same events this year that he had at the start of 2009, another year in which he was coming off a serious leg injury just as he suffered in 2011.
“I had a good year that year. I won six times,” Woods said. “It would be nice if I could get the same total with a couple of majors in there.”
Woods has not won a major since the 2008 US Open and has not been the man to beat on Sunday in a major since 2009 when South Korean Yang Yong-Eun outplayed him down the stretch to win the PGA Championship.
But Woods took a big confidence boost from his victory two weeks ago at Congressional Country Club, his 74th career triumph moving him within eight of matching Sam Snead’s US PGA career record.
Woods said his work-in-progress swing changes in working with coach Sean Foley are finally nearing their payoff.
“It was just a matter of time,” Woods said. “I could see the pieces coming together. We can see the consistency. If you look at my ball-striking this year it has gotten more and more consistent.”
“There are times I revert back but it’s happening less and less. Give me a little time and I feel like this (winning) is what I can do.”
In 16 majors since his 2008 US Open victory, Woods has missed four with injuries, finished outside the top 20 four times, twice missed the cut and finished in the top six in six events.
US veteran Steve Stricker is among those who has proclaimed Woods is back on form only to scratch his head when the former World No. 1 stumbles in his next outing, still struggling to regain the consistency that was once his hallmark.
“I guess lately we don’t know what to expect from him,” Stricker said. “When he wins, we’re all eager to look ahead and think that he’s going to be back to where he was in the early 2000s or whenever he was at the top of his game.”
Woods, a three-time British Open champion, was the low amateur and shared 22nd place at Royal Lytham at the 1996 Open and he shared 25th on the same course in 2001.