by Jeff Skinner
Some things are tough to figure out. Like how to get Americans good health care. Try to find a formula for peace in the Middle East. Will they ever figure out a way to cap that oil well in the gulf? Who are the Kardashians and what are they famous for? I have no clue for any of those but I have another tough one. How does a golfer who ranks 90th in scoring average on the PGA Tour, whose last three starts went missed cut, withdrawal and a tie for 19th go into the US Open as one of the favorites? Even I can figure that one out, it’s Tiger Woods.
The odds makers have Tiger as one of the favorites to win his fourth US Open but last we saw Tiger his game was anything but US Open ready. His driver seems like it has an allergic reaction to fairways and he currently ranks 164th in driving accuracy. That just won’t cut it at a Pebble Beach that is set up by the USGA. He’ll have to hit more fairways to have a real chance. The good news for Woods is that he has found his putting stroke. He leads the tour with 1.7 putts per GIR but with only thirteen rounds in the books this year it is hardly a valid sample.
It is bewildering to think that this is the same Tiger Woods that blew the field away by fifteen strokes in the 2000 US Open at this same course. No other golfers even finished under par. Woods was at twelve under with Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez placing second at plus three. It was the most dominating win in major championship history. It broke the record of Old Tom Morris that had stood for 138 years. It will probably stand for another 138 years at least.
It is just as hard to believe that this is the same Tiger Woods that made his way around 91 holes of Torrey Pines on a broken leg and a torn ACL two years ago to win his playoff over Rocco Mediate. Woods called that major his biggest one yet and it is easy to understand why.
We have all come to expect the unexpected from Woods. He has a gift for the making the most dramatic shots at the most dramatic times. If Woods could possibly find his game and contend in this Open this could be his most remarkable major victory ever. Consider where he has been personally since his Thanksgiving crash. Despite his denials, his off course problems have translated into on course troubles. He has no coach, no swing and no confidence in his game. He is at a place where he has never been before. That is usually when Woods performs his miracles. When he has no chance, when he is absolutely dead, when other golfers shy away from the difficult, the unthinkable, the impossible, that is when the old Tiger Woods was at his best. If he can rescue his game from the trash heap, if he can be the Tiger Woods of old and find a way to win, he will have pulled off the most extraordinary victory of his career. Maybe the bookies know something. Maybe Tiger will be Tiger again. In a career of remarkable and memorable major wins this would be the most astonishing win yet.