CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND – What has felt a bit like a Tiger Woods reunion tour this season has arrived at the Open Championship, the first time in three years the three-time winner will chase the Claret Jug.
If you’re looking for a major championship that gives Woods the strongest chance of winning another, it’s this one.
If not this year, then down the road. That’s his determination.
“As far as long term, certainly, I would say yes because of the fact you don’t have to be long to play on a links course,” Woods said Tuesday, citing the near misses of 59-year-old Tom Watson and 53-year-old Greg Norman in the relatively recent history of this championship.
“You get to places like Augusta National, where it’s just a big ballpark and the golf course outgrows you, unfortunately. That’s just the way it goes. But links-style golf courses, you can roll the ball.”
To underpin his point, Woods said he hit a 330-yard 3-iron off the tee on the 18th hole at baked-brown Carnoustie. A potentially fearsome 499-yard finishing hole may be neutered by the dry, fast conditions that have changed how players will approach the layout, which is dotted by snake-pit dangerous pot bunkers in landing areas.
“Distance becomes a moot point on a links-style golf course but creativity plays such an important role,” Woods said.
Because of the firm, fiery conditions that are likely to persist throughout the weekend, Woods has put a new 2-iron in his bag. The new club has 17 degrees of loft, which will give him more run than the 20-degree club he typically carries. Surprisingly, Woods said he has used the new club little in his practice sessions because shorter iron shots are rolling so far.
Woods loves links golf and told a story Tuesday morning of his introduction to this style of golf at his first British Amateur championship at Carnoustie. He spent approximately two hours on the practice tee, hitting different shots at a 100-meter sign, marveling at the different ways he could get the ball to his target.
The conditions are forcing players to re-evaluate their strategy, choosing whether to wail away with drivers and risk catching the bunkers or take a more defensive approach off the tee.
“Trajectory means a lot,” Woods said. “This course can be played so many different ways, which is going to be the real interesting test, how we’re going to manage our way around the golf course.”