Woods bids to end five-year wait for Major No 15
World number one looking for favourable bounce that can make all the difference between success and failure
Tiger Woods in relaxed mood as he answers questions from the media ahead of the 142nd Open Championship at Muirfield. Photo: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images) Tiger Woods in relaxed mood as he answers questions from the media ahead of the 142nd Open Championship at Muirfield. Photo: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Tiger Woods can laugh now. Not back then, though. Not on that Saturday of the 2002 British Open on this famed links, when a squall materialised – coming in as if by magic from the North Sea – and settled down on Muirfield with a vengeance.
Players, many without any raingear, used their hands like an old washing wringer in their attempts to squeeze the water out of their expensive cashmeres and others simply threw in the towel.
“That was the worst I’ve ever played in, I think because of the fact that we weren’t prepared for it,” recalled Woods yesterday, casting his mind back to that miserable day when he shot a third round 81 which, to this day, remains the worst score he has chalked-up as a professional.
Woods battled on, his then-trusty sidekick Steve Williams shielding him as best he could from the elements with an umbrella that became increasingly useless as the squall gather force.
“The forecast was very wrong, none of us were prepared clothing-wise. A lot of guys had golf shirts and a rain jacket and that was it, all they had. It was just a cold, cold day . . . . it started easing up towards the end, (but) by then the damage had already been done to my round,” said Woods.
He added: “I just happened to catch the weather at the worst time and I didn’t play well at the same time. So it was a double whammy. I believe that is the worst score I’ve shot as a professional. It was a tough one. But that’s the way it goes.”
The memory of those conditions has seemed a pretty alien one these past few days, as Woods has prepared in glorious conditions on a course so hard and firm that the greenstaff have been hosing water on to areas in danger of getting too burnt.
Woods, who confined his practice to just nine holes yesterday, is seeking to win a 15th Major championship and close in on Jack Nicklaus’s record 18. Woods hasn’t won a Major since his US Open success of 2008 but has won four times on the US Tour so far this season.
“ I feel very good about my game. I felt very, very good going into Major championships. I’ve had a pretty good year this year so far; won four times. Even though I haven’t won a Major championship in five years, I’ve been there in a bunch of them where I’ve had chances.
“I just need to keep putting myself there and eventually I’ll get some.”
He expanded: “I think it’s just a shot here and there. It’s making a key up-and-down here or getting a good bounce here, capitalising on an opportunity here and there.
“For instance, this year at Augusta was one of those examples. I really played well, and a good shot ended up having a bad break (when his approach hit the flagstick on 15 and rebounded into the water). So it’s a shot here and a shot there.
“It’s not much. It could happen on the first day, it could happen on the last day.
“But it’s turning that tide and getting the momentum at the right time or capitalising on our opportunity. That’s what you have to do to win Major championships.”