Tiger Woods believes The Open is his best chance at winning another major – and not just because it’s the next one he plays in.
Tiger Woods is returning to Carnoustie for his first appearance at The Open Championship since 2015, 18 years after winning his first Claret Jug in St Andrews.
The 14-time major champion responded with a smile when asked whether he felt The Open offers him the best chance to win his next major.
“Not to be smart, but it is the next major I’m playing,” Woods responded.
He was candid about his chances however, drawing inspiration from players like Tom Watson – who was still contending for the title in his famous loss to Stewart Cink in 2009, aged 59.
“As far as long term, certainly, I would say yes because of the fact that you don’t have to be long to play on a links style golf course, and look what Tom did at Turnberry at 59, I believe he was. So it’s possible. Greg was there at Birkdale, I think about 54-ish, somewhere around there, 53, 54. It certainly can be done.”
Despite currently ranking 28th on the PGA Tour for driving distance this year, Woods felt that long-term as he loses distance to other players – Augusta will outgrow him in a way that links golf and The Open won’t.
“You get to places like Augusta National, where it’s just a big ballpark, and the golf course outgrows you, unfortunately. That’s just the way it goes. But links style golf course, you can roll the ball. As I said earlier, I hit a 3 iron that went down there to 330.Well, even if I get a little bit older, I can still chase some wood or long club down there and hit the ball the same distance.
“So distance becomes a moot point on a links style golf course. But creativity plays such an important role, and you’ve got guys like Tom playing late in his career, doing well. There’s a reason why he won five of these – very creative and hit all the shots.”
For this week, strategy off the tee will play a big part for many players – just don’t expect Tiger to be hitting many drivers thanks to the firm and fast conditions.
“As I was saying to some of the guys a couple days ago, the fairways were faster than the greens.
“there’s not a lot of opportunities to hit the driver just because the ball is going to be rolling 80 yards. It’s just hard to keep the ball in play. Even hitting sometimes 4 and 5 irons, they’ve been running 50, 60 yards.
“It’s going to be an interesting test to see which clubs we’re going to be using off the tees, and a lot of it is dependent on which way the wind blows. So the whole idea of these practise rounds is just to get a good feel for what I’m going to do, and then adjust accordingly based on wind.”
Instead, he’s put a new 2-iron in the bag as more of a ‘driving club’.
“I did put a new 2 iron in play this week. I went down in loft from my normal 2 iron. My normal 2 iron is about 20 degrees. I bent this one down about 17. So I took a few degrees off of it, just trying to be able to have the ability to chase one down there.
“I still carry it about the same. It goes 245, 250 yards in the air, but it gets to its final destination much differently. Obviously, it rolls out whereas mine back home, I’ve generally liked having it 20 degrees because I can hit the ball into the par 5s as an option. This one’s not really designed for hitting the ball in the air to par 5s as an option. It’s more of a driving club.”
And Tiger is also keeping his TaylorMade TP Ardmore 3 mallet putter in the bag, which he hopes will help on the slower links greens – something he admits he has struggled with throughout his career.
“I did go to that mallet putter; has a little more swing to it. To be honest with you, I’ve struggled on slower greens throughout my entire career. It’s one of the reasons why I think I really like the fact that this putter has grooves in it so it does roll initially a little bit faster and a little bit more true. And it is a little bit hotter.
“So for me, it’s going to help on these greens for sure because I normally, when I’ve come over here and I’ve played on virtually almost every single Open I’ve played in, I would put lead tape on my putter to try to lead it up and get it a little bit heavier and get the ball rolling. Don’t necessarily have to do it with the grooves. And when I putted with the Nike putter, I didn’t have to put lead tape on the putter to get a little more weight to it. I could leave it just the way it was. And this is the same type.”
This will be his fourth visit to Carnoustie (and third as an Open venue), having played here for the first time as an amateur during the 1995 Scottish Open. And, for Woods, just being able to feel competitive with the world’s still represents a big step forward.
He begins his campaign to win his 4th open at 3:21pm BST on Thursday.