x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Woods back at home

Woods is tied for fourth at both the Masters and the US Open. The Old Course at St Andrews, however, is where he really feels at home in majors.

Tiger Woods has improved in the majors and could do well at St Andrews this week.
Tiger Woods has improved in the majors and could do well at St Andrews this week.

ST ANDREWS // In January, when Tiger Woods was in therapy and no one knew when he was coming back or how he would play, Jack Nicklaus looked at 2010 as a big year for Woods's pursuit of major championships. "If Tiger is going to pass my record, this is a big year for him in that regard," Nicklaus said at the start of the season. It was more much about "where" than who, when or how. Augusta National for the Masters. Pebble Beach for the US Open. St Andrews for the British Open. Woods has won half of his 14 majors on those courses, just as Nicklaus won half of his record 18 major championships on those same three storied venues.

Woods is tied for fourth at both the Masters and the US Open. The Old Course at St Andrews, however, is where he really feels at home. He played his first British Open on these ageless links as a 19-year-old amateur and made the cut. He first won the career grand slam at St Andrews in 2000 with a record 19-under par for an eight-shot victory. He returned in 2005 to win by five shots. Such is his affection for the Old Course that Woods was asked last month which would be the ideal rotation for him to play the four majors. Without hesitation, Woods replied, "I'd probably pick St Andrews all four times."

The only question is what kind of game he will bring to the home of golf this week. In the majors, Woods appears to be getting close to his former level. Having not competed for five months, Woods had a chance to win on the back nine on Sunday at the Masters and tied for fourth. At the US Open last month, he made five bogeys on the opening 10 holes but tied for fourth. In every other tournament since he returned to golf, Woods has looked ordinary.

He missed the cut at Quail Hollow with the highest 36-hole score of Woods's career. A neck injury caused him to withdraw from The Players Championship. In the two other US PGA Tour events where he played all four rounds, Woods finished a combined 26 shots out of the lead. "Just call it one of those things," Woods said. "Tried just the same in every one. For some reason, those two [majors] have been my best results."

The No 1 world ranking, which has belonged to Woods over the last five years, will be up for grabs at St Andrews between Woods and Phil Mickelson, as it was at the US Open. Mickelson has never fared well in golf's oldest championship. His only top-10 came in 2004 when he finished one shot out of a play-off at Royal Troon. He thinks he is close to solving the Open, saying that he put too much spin on the ball in recent years. If he has learned the secret to the links, this might be an opportunity to win more than one major in a year for the first time.

* AP