LOOK no further than Tiger Woods for the claret jug when the Open golf championship concludes at Muirfield tomorrow.
That is the emphatic advice of the professional who knows Woods better than anyone – long time mentor, Mark O’Meara.
O’Meara helped to nurture the fledgling Woods’ talent and nothing that has happened since has altered his view that his prodigy is the one to beat.
“I never bet against Tiger Woods. I know how much this tournament means to him and it doesn’t surprise me to see him playing reasonably well,” said O’Meara shortly after booking his place for the final two rounds with a three over par aggregate.
Note the word “reasonably” implying that Woods, who is two under par and right up with the leaders, has plenty of scope for improvement.
At the same time, O’Meara touched upon the human side to Woods, often portrayed as a golfing automaton.
“Tiger is always nervous. If you are not nervous you don’t want it.
“He’s nervous because he’s trying to win. I know he knows he’s got experience but that doesn’t necessarily give him a right to win. You still have to play the shots.”
Nor does O’Meara hint at any concern Woods might tighten as he continues to chase Jack Nicklaus’s record 18 major titles. Currently Woods has 14.
O’Meara stressed: “Certainly, Tiger knows how to get around links golf. And he’s not hitting a lot of drivers around here so that’s a good thing.”
At the very least, 55-year-old O’Meara’s 78 in backing up an 67 was ideal preparation for next week’s British Seniors at Royal Birkdale.
But he also offered encouragement to playing partner Grant Forrest, the Scottish amateur champion from East Lothian.
Forrest struggled to finishing 17 over par after a promising opening round but O’Meara was able to spot potential.
“I felt bad for Grant. He had a bad day and didn’t play well.
“He hit some poor shots but it’s a learning experience for him and he hit some good shots as well. He’ll be fine.”