With the championship hardware out of reach in Sunday’s final round of the Memorial, Tiger Woods turned his eye toward the U.S. Open.
He liked what he saw.
Tiger Woods Primed for U.S Open
Woods polished off his final competitive work before the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach June 13-16 with a 5-under-par 67 at Muirfield Village, a score that once again fell short of reaching possible special status that Woods seemed poised to deliver with a spectacular front nine.
All in all, however, Woods’ yo-yo week positioned him on the coveted path to Monterey Peninsula. While he moved up the leaderboard Sunday in the tournament he’s won a record five times, he finished 10 shots behind winner Patrick Cantlay and tied for ninth after rounds of 70-72-70-67 but left the premises with some bounce in his step.
“It could have been a little better, for sure,” said Woods, who birdied seven of his first 12 holes and got within four of the leaders before two bogeys coming in took some sting out of the round. “Going into today I was never going to win the tournament, but I was hoping I could get something positive going into the Open, and I was able to accomplish that, which is great, to get some nice positive momentum going into a nice practice week.
“Each day I got a little crisper. I made a few mistakes and didn’t keep the card as clean as I’d like. A couple of loose iron shots here and there, but overall I drove it great this week. I just need to clean up the rounds.”
Tiger’s Early Round Blunders
Two double-bogeys – on the 15th hole in the second round and the 10th hole in the third round – derailed Woods’ momentum. But he made 20 birdies for the week and left a bunch of other birdie putts on the lip.
“First 12 holes were an absolute clinic,” said Joe LaCava, Woods’ caddie. He still hit some decent shots coming in. It wasn’t like he played poorly, he just didn’t get anything out of it the last five or six holes.
“He’s certainly going in the right direction with good momentum. I thought the iron play was top-notch today. Definitely some good momentum and positive vibes from both (weekend) days. The quality of shots on a scale of one to 10, I would say were a nine.”
Woods said he’s in a much better place heading into the next major than he was going into the last major. After he won his fifth green jacket and 15th major at the Masters in April, Woods did not play in the next four weeks on the PGA Tour before the PGA Championship. Woods, while dealing with an undisclosed illness, looked dull and far from sharp and missed the cut.
Now he’s back to feeling like he did before the Masters. And he’s hoping the USGA goes back to what they used to do when setting up a golf course for the national championship.
Tiger Woods Critical of the USGA
Woods said he hasn’t been a big fan of recent decisions by the USGA to change the character of the national championship. He pointed out the introduction of graduated rough, the flexible employment of teeing grounds, the use of interchangeable pars in 2015 at Chambers Bay on the first and 18th holes.
He wants the USGA to go old school.
“I thought it was just narrow fairways, hit it in the fairway or hack out, move on. Now there’s chipping areas around the greens. There’s less rough,” said Woods, who won the U.S. Open in 2000 at Pebble Beach, in 2002 at Bethpage Black and in 2008 at Torrey Pines. “They try to make the Open different, and strategically different. I just like it when there’s high rough and narrow fairways and it’s, ‘Go get it, boys.’”
Gotta Bring the “A” Game
Whatever the setup, Woods knows anything less than his “A” game won’t cut it in the Pebble Beach U.S. Open. Consider the winners there – Jack Nicklaus in 1972, Tom Watson in 1982, Tom Kite in 1992, Woods in 2000, and Graeme McDowell in 2010.
“You have to hit the golf ball well there,” said Woods, who also finished in a tie for fourth in 2010. “There’s no two ways about it. The smallest green complexes we play on besides Hilton Head. But they’re slopey. And so, there’s no way to fake it around that golf course. You have to hit the golf ball well.
“The times that I have played well there, whether it’s in January or it’s in June, I’ve hit the ball well enough that I’ve been in good spots. It’s going to be a typical U.S. Open. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be difficult. And we know that going in.”
LaCava’s thoughts on Woods
Judging from what Woods has done this week, and from what he did in winning the Masters, LaCava thinks Woods fits that mold to a tee.
Related: Tiger Woods’ Longest Drive Ever
“He’s driving it very well with the 3-wood and the 5-wood, which I think we’re going use for a lot of tee shots at Pebble,” LaCava said. “He’s driving it awfully well, too. First things first, when he knows he’s driving it well, he pretty much knows he’s always going to hit his irons pretty decent. So, if he can drive it well he knows he’s going to be around Sunday afternoon.”