Tiger Woods has ranked Carnoustie, where he gave us a glimpse that he could indeed return to major-winning form when making his presence felt in the 2018 Open Championship, among the toughest three tests in golf.
Speaking as he prepared for the 120th US Open, the 15-time major winner heaped praise on the Angus course when he was asked where he rated this week’s venue, Winged Foot, in terms of difficulty.
“I think it’s right up there next to Oakmont and I think Carnoustie as far as just sheer difficulty without even doing anything to it,” said Woods. “I think those three golf courses, they can host major championships without ever doing anything to them.”
In the last US Open at the Mamaroneck venue in 2006, Woods shot 12-over-par to miss the cut for the first time in 38 majors as a professional. Asked about that disappointment, the 44-year-old revealed he was still grieving following the death of his dad and mentor, Earl, earlier that year.
“When I didn’t win the Masters that year, that was really tough to take because that was the last event my dad was ever going to watch me play,” said the three-time US Open champion, the most recent of his wins having come in 2008.
“He passed not too long after that, and quite frankly, when I got ready for this event, I didn’t really put in the time. I didn’t really put in the practice, and consequently missed the cut pretty easily.
“But, after that, I was able to do some pretty good grieving after this championship, played well at the Western and then went on to really play well at the British (winning the Claret Jug for a third time at Royal Liverpool.
“I think I was not just prepared to play and still dealing with the death of my dad.”
Woods, who ended an 11-year drought in majors when claiming his fifth Masters title last April, has struggled to hit top form since golf came out of lockdown in front of no fans. Disappointingly, he was unable to defend his Tour Championship title recently after failing to go the distance in the FedEx Cup Play-Offs this time around.
“Unfortunately, this is our new reality,” he said of events being played behind closed doors in the Covid-19 world. “This is something we’re getting used to. It’s not something we like. We want the fans and we want the atmosphere out there, but safety is first
“For me in particular, I miss the energy and just the positiveness that the fans bring and just that electricity. But that’s something that I’ve been playing in front of for over two decades. That’s something I’ve been a part of, and I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of that. The energy is just not quite the same without the fans.”
Woods, who has been paired with US PGA champion Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas in the opening two rounds in the season’s second major, admitted his form has been patchy since winning the Zozo Championship in Japan towards the end of last year.
“This year I really haven’t putted as well as I wanted to and the times I did make a few swing mistakes, I missed it in the wrong spots,” he reflected. “I’ve compounded mistakes here and there that ended up not making me able to make pars or a birdie run, and consequently I haven’t put myself in contention to win events.”
Australian Geoff Ogilvy claimed the title 14 years ago at Winged Foot with a five-over-par total, while seven-over did the trick for American Hale Irwin on another visit of the USGA event in 1974.
“The winning scores here have never traditionally been very low. I don’t see that changing this week,” predicted Woods. “The golf course is going to be hard. It depends on how difficult they want to set up these pins, give us a chance at it. But, with the forecast, it’s going to be difficult no matter what.
“I was able to come up here right before I played in Boston (in the first of the FedEx Cup Play-Off events), take a look at the golf course, and I was able to get my sight lines. This golf course is going to be one of the more difficult ones.”
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