Tiger Woods will be in British Open spotlight | Golf
Tiger Woods will be in the spotlight when the British Open starts Thursday.
The Orlando Sentinel
At a glanceThursday- July 22 @ Royal Lytham & St. Annes
Course: 7,086 yards, par 34-36 — 70. The club opened in 1866 and hosted its first Open in 1926, won by Bobby Jones. This year, the sixth hole will be played as a par 4, meaning par for the course will be 70 for the first time.
Field: 156 (154 professionals, 2 amateurs).
Defending champion: Darren Clarke.
Noteworthy: Americans have a chance to hold all four majors for the first time since Phil Mickelson won the 2004 Masters.
TV: Thursday and Friday, 2 a.m. to noon, ESPN. Saturday, 4 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., ESPN. Sunday, 3 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., ESPN.
In theatrical parlance, it is called the Greek chorus. And in the tale of two extremes that has defined Tiger Woods' season, the voices commenting on the action at times have been nearly as entertaining as the drama they accompany.
Item: Woods is back to his winning ways — three times, in fact, which is more than anyone else on the PGA Tour. He recently passed Jack Nicklaus for No. 2 on the all-time list for victories. (Voices: He's back!!)
Then again, Woods has an equal number of starts in which he didn't finish 72 holes — two missed cuts and an injury flare-up. (No, he's not!)
It has made for a lot of noise — though, as golf's best players cross the Atlantic for the British Open that starts Thursday, not a lot of resolution.
"If he's playing well, he's better than everybody else in the field," said ESPN analyst Curtis Strange, twice a U.S. Open champion. "If he's not, he's average. It just depends on which Tiger shows up. And we of late have seen two different Tigers."
Woods has given both sides ammunition.
The winner of 14 major tournaments led after two rounds of the U.S. Open, with a 36-hole display of solid ballstriking not seen in years. (He's back!!)
And then he shot 75-73 on the weekend. (No, he's not!)
In his next start, Woods outdueled a dogged Bo Van Pelt down the stretch to win the AT&T National. (He's back!!) Less than a week later, he missed the Greenbrier Classic cut against a less-than-stellar field. (Are you joking? He's not!)
And so it goes.
"I guess lately we don't know what to expect from him," said Steve Stricker, Woods' frequent Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup partner. "And when he wins, we're all eager to look ahead and think that he's going to be back to where he was."
Woods, as he has grown comfortable with instructor Sean Foley's swing changes, has shown he can get there at times. His three victories all struck themes golf fans had become accustomed to seeing.
A relentless, almost mistake-free weekend at the Arnold Palmer Invitational left his nearest pursuers eating dust. At the Memorial, a brilliant chip-in shook the ground with roars and kick-started a closing charge. At the AT&T National, Van Pelt blinked first.
But Woods also hasn't left the question marks of recent seasons completely behind. Never before has he missed more than one cut in a season. Nor did he seem all that chafed when it occurred.
"It happens, you know?" Woods said before exiting the Greenbrier. "I've been (out on Tour) for a long time and I think I've missed nine cuts."
Truth be told, Woods got caught on the wrong side of a low cut. Playing the famed West Virginia resort for the first time, his distance control wasn't sharp in the mountain air.
Critics would argue the "old" Woods would have made the adjustment in time.
Royal Lytham & St. Annes, with its 205 bunkers and typically windy conditions, doesn't leave much room for error. It also has the British Open's most exclusive list of winners — all nine are either in the Hall of Fame or were ranked No. 1 in the world at some point.
In that sense, Woods would make a proper addition — and it is worth noting he has shown before he can keep the ball out of Open bunkers.