A week from today, the golf world will be focused on Muirfield Golf Course in Scotland as the final round of the British Open will be well underway. Whether Tiger Woods is among those with a shot at the Claret Jug at that time will be anyone’s guess and mine is that he won’t.
Woods is currently listed as an 8-1 favorite by Bovada. His closest competition is Masters’ winner Adam Scott, U.S. Open winner Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy who are all listed at 18-1. Defending champion Ernie Els is currently listed at 25-1. Els is not only the defending Open Champion but he was was also the winner the last time the Open was held at Muifield in 2002.
For Woods, earlier today was the first time he has been on a course, publically anyway as he played a practice round. Since finishing 32nd at the U.S. Open Woods has taken time away from the game to nurse a strained elbow suffered early in the tournament at Merion. Doctors advised him to rest the elbow and stay away from golf which apparently is what Woods did over the last month.
From my vantage point, the elbow injury will provide Woods with yet another excuse should he fail to win his 15th major championship. Should he win, it will be a ‘miraculous recovery’ and Woods will have ‘overcome’ injury to win the title.
This isn’t the first time we will have seen either of these two gameplans from Woods. He’s done it before with his bum knee prior to winning a U.S. Open when just weeks before it was causing him too many issues. It’s happened with his wrist as well. If he plays well, then he is over-coming adversity with his mental and physical fortitude but if he loses, the injury was just to much to bear.
I wrote in this space around Masters’ time about whether Tiger was truly ‘back.’ He had won several tournaments and was the overwhelming favorite to win in Augusta. My argument is simply that until he wins a major tournament then he is not ‘back’ by any stretch of the imagination. Woods himself has always said that the greatest golfers are measured by the majors that they win and right now that puts Woods second to Jack Nicklaus.
My belief is that should Woods win this week or maybe even the PGA in August, it will send him on a streak to the point of where Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors is in jeopardy. The flip-side of that equation is that the longer Woods goes without a major victory, the more difficult it will become. At 37, Woods is not getting any younger.
The issue of whether he is back or not is subjective and arguable. What we can all agree on is that Woods has shown glimpses of his typical brilliance especially earlier this year but the consistency over long periods of time is lacking.
What you can bet on for sure this week is that if Woods is in the top ten after the second round then he will be there in final round. Ten years ago we would bet our first-born that he would win but that confidence is absent now. Woods looked very much like he was on track to win the Masters even despite the two-stroke penalty he incurred.
But the win didn’t happen and the competitors around him are not nearly as in awe of him as they once were. I don’t believe they will be either until that next major victory comes. When it does, I will be more than happy to proclaim him “back” but until then I’m not buying it and neither should you.