Monday, April 19, 2010


Despite nearly a five month layoff from competitive golf, Tiger Woods impressed many of his critics as he finished tied for fourth place at last week’s Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Many had previously believed that Tiger would struggle greatly, possibly missing the cut, during his return to golf following his highly publicized “transgressions.” Nonetheless, the week turned out successful for Woods. Although he did not win the tournament, Tiger was in contention for all four days. For the most part, his reception from the patrons was warm and welcoming. Most were pleased to see that his game had not diminished too greatly after his extended break. Excluding his struggles off of the tee for the majority of the final two rounds, Tiger Woods proved he has not lost his knack for competing. He has not lost his world renowned golf abilities either.

Tiger currently sits only four wins back, at 14, of Jack Nicklaus for the all time record of most victories in major tournaments. If the past is any indication, there is no reason whatsoever why Tiger Woods could not be sitting just one shy of Nicklaus’ record at the end of 2010. Let me take a moment to explain why Tiger Woods will be so difficult to contend with at the three remaining major events of the 2010 PGA Tour season.

Firstly, the U.S. Open will be held at Pebble Beach this year where, needless to say, Woods won by a record fifteen strokes in 2000 (the last time the U.S. Open was held at Pebble Beach). Many consider his victory there to have consisted of the finest four rounds of golf ever played; it kicked off the “Tiger Slam,” as he won four majors in a row beginning at Pebble Beach. Woods finished that tournament with a 12-under 272, fifteen strokes ahead of runners-up Ernie Els and Miguel Angel-Jimenez. He bogied just five holes during the week and did not three-putt a single green. Tiger will be entering the 2010 U.S. Open as the overwhelming favorite for good reason; his past success at Pebble Beach is unparalleled.

Next is The Open Championship (or British Open) in mid-July. This year it will be held at the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland. Tiger has won the last two Open Championships that were held at St. Andrews, 2000 and 2005. His victory in 2000 was most noted for him not having to play a single bunker shot. Staying out of the deep bunkers at St. Andrews is crucial, Tiger did that magnificently and won easily (by 8 strokes, as he shot a 269 for the tournament). In 2005, Woods opened by shooting a 66 and a 67 in the first two rounds, respectively. Having the lead heading into Saturday he never looked back, eventually winning by five strokes. In each of his two victories in The Open Championship at St. Andrews, Tiger was able to maneuver the course easily with both power and finesse; Tiger’s style of play sets up perfectly for success at St. Andrew’s Old Course. An even scarier thought: Tiger has said repeatedly that St. Andrews is his favorite golf course in the world.

Lastly, the 2010 PGA Championship, held in August, will be played at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin. This is the site where Woods had one of his worst showings in a major championship ever. He finished tied for 24th after struggling to make the cut with an opening round 75. To his credit, he had been dealing with the ailing health of his father as well as completely overhauling his swing. Most of Tiger’s year in 2004 consisted of constant work with his swing coach, Hank Haney, trying to improve his entire golf swing. Although Woods struggled at his last PGA Championship appearance at Whistling Straits, the course sets up perfectly in Tiger’s favor. The links-style course is the longest in major championship history, measuring 7,514 yards. The course consists of three par-4’s measuring at least 500 yards a piece, with the shortest par-5 measuring 569 yards. There are over 1,000 bunkers. That’s correct, 1,000 bunkers; so much sand that it’s difficult to tell when one bunker ends and the other begins. The course, designed by Pete Dye, can leave players with snowmen all over their scorecard. When the wind kicks up, shooting ten over par is not uncommon. However, if Tiger shows up with his A-game, there is no reason why he could not win the tournament. Seeing as how Woods is consistently one of the longest drivers on tour, the long course-layout gives him an obvious advantage over much of the field. The greens at Whistling Straits could also benefit Tiger. They are said to be relatively easy to putt on, and with short game being Tiger’s biggest strong point, he should have no problem sinking putts.

If Tiger Woods can put it all together in 2010, and keep himself composed, he should have no problem staying in contention at every remaining major this season. Although he has previously stated that passing Jack Nicklaus for the all-time major victories record is meaningless to him, it has become increasingly evident to all of us that it is not the case. The record means everything to him. Not only is he currently the number one ranked player in the world, winning that 19th major championship would leave him as the number one player of all-time. In today’s sporting world, when a player makes a mistake away from his or her respective sport, forgiveness comes when success is attained. With that said, you can expect Tiger’s issues with his multiple affairs as well as his highly publicized car accident to be all but forgotten after the end of the 2010 PGA Tour season.

-Christopher M. Barfield

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