It’s a bold statement, but I’ve seen enough of Tiger’s attempts to win another Major. Today, under benign morning conditions at Oak Hill he played himself out of contention finishing 6 strokes back of the morning leader Jim Furyk. His play was alright – 2 under – until he tried to use his driver on the par 5 4th. He hit it into the high rough and took six while the leaders were all birdieing the hole.
Then, feeling the pressure to catch Nicklaus he went for an heroic shot on his last hole of the day, number 9, having started on the back. He ended up leaving it in the punishing rough to the left of the green and made double bogey. That’s not the strategy of a patient player. He should have laid up and used his great short game and putting to make par. If he’d done that he would still be in the hunt at 1 under.
Tomorrow he’ll play in the afternoon and the course should be considerably harder as it dries out. The PGA will also make the pins tougher. The only way he has a hope of catching the leaders is to be able to hit his driver on some holes and keep it in the fairway, something he hasn’t been able to do in a long, long time.
Until Tiger can keep a driver or 3 wood in the fairway off the tee, he’s not going to win a US Open or a PGA. The rough is just too punishing at these events even for Tiger with his skills and strength. On kinder setups he can still use his spectacular scrambling skills to best the field, as his 5 wins this year proves. That leaves the Masters and maybe a British Open where Tiger still has a chance. The British is a big IF because Tiger doesn’t do well with greens that are inconsistent and high wind, both of which are very likely in the UK.
It’s sad to see the greatest golfer of our times lose part of his game, marking a transition in a spectacular career. It’s like watching Willy Mays lose his legs and not be able to make the spectacular catches of his prime. I’m still a big Tiger fan and would love to see him give Nicklaus’s mark in the Majors a real run. Unfortunately, it’s going to take a lot more than hope from his fans. If he can’t find a way to hit it 300 yards and stay in the fairway, Jack’s record is looking very safe.