As golf's oldest tournament gets set to take place this Thursday, Tiger Woods faces yet another stiff test at this years British Open in hope of getting back in the major win column.
Tiger has had quite the up and down season to his standards, however if one were to judge his play solely on results it is evident that he has been the most successful golfer on the PGA tour this season.
Tiger comes into the championship as the odds on favorite for the third time in a major championship in this PGA season. Although he missed the cut two weeks ago at the Greenbrier classic, his game appears to be rounding into shape with wins in two of his last four tournaments, in addition to a decent finish at the US Open that saw him hold the 36 hole lead going into the weekend.
The Open Championship always brings in a different dimension to the game with its links style and deep rough, however in the past those conditions have failed to tamper Tiger's results as he has won 3 British Opens in his career. Tiger skipped this past weeks event to play a practice round at Royal Lytham and his post round comments reaffirmed the difficult test that he and the rest of the field will be forced to face. Woods was asked about the rough golfers will face this week. "Oh my God," he said via the Guardian, "In some places it is almost unplayable." If Tiger can stay out of the rough and improve his putting, his chances of winning will go up dramatically. Woods hit the ball tremendously at the US Open in June, however his short game let him down throughout the weekend, pushing him away from contention. Tiger ranks fifth this season in total driving so staying in the fairway shouldn't be the concern going into the championship. His approach shots have been mediocre at best throughout this season and with the way he's been putting it is essential that he puts himself within striking distance on the greens if he has any hope of winning his fourth Claret Jug and fifteenth major championship.
His pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' 18 majors has stalled in the last 4 years. Although Tiger hasn't made much noise in recent majors, he has shown more promise this season than he has in any of the past four seasons. His game appears ready to launch him one major closer to the record holder Jack Nicklaus, but the question of whether the "new" Tiger can handle the pressure of contending in a major Championship for 72 holes still looms. Tiger's supernatural ability to lock down and block out all distractions was what allowed him to win all his major's before this slump. Now he must regain that ability if he is to have any chance of catching Jack's record. Royal Lytham shouldn't be the concern going into the tournament. Tiger has proven time and again that he can overcome any conditions, course or opposition. Tiger must prove what he failed to last month at Olympic. He must assure us all that when the chips are on the table and he's within striking distance of yet another major win that he can control the excitement that surrounds the spectacle of Tiger Woods contending at a major championship.
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