Tiger Woods will not win the British Open.
Here are five reasons why:
He has a bad back. Yes, everyone knows that. What that means is that he can’t prepare for a big event – or even a not-so-big event – the way he would like.
Bad backs are colossally unpredictable. No matter how dedicated Woods might be to doing all the things that go into taking care of it, he can’t know from one day to the next how he’s going to feel. And if he doesn’t feel good for multiple days in a row, he can’t hit balls or play golf and falls behind all those other guys who do feel good and are on the range putting in the time necessary to get ready for a major championship. Woods hates that.
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Tiger Woods, who hasn’t competed since he tied for 21st in the U.S. Open in mid-June, returns to action for the British Open next week.
He’s not playing any tournament golf. The biggest reason why he’s not entered in tournaments is: see Item One. Woods refuses to tee it up when he’s not fully healthy or prepared. Even at that, he has played only nine tournaments on the PGA Tour this year.
In the run-up to the Masters, he entered the Players Championship and finished T-30. Two weeks later, he was at the WGC-Dell Match Play, where he reached the quarterfinals. Two weeks later, he won the Masters. Woods has played two consecutive weeks only once: the Genesis Open and the WGC-Mexico Championship in February.
But he didn’t play in the four weeks between the Masters and the PGA Championship, where he played alongside eventual winner Brooks Koepka for the first two rounds and missed the cut with 72-73. He didn’t come right out and say it, but it was clear that he was in physical discomfort.
Woods did play the Memorial – a tournament that he has won five times – two weeks before the U.S. Open, where he tied for ninth. And he was T-21 at the Open. He will not have played a tournament round between the U.S. Open and next week’s British Open. At least one other major champion thinks that’s a mistake.
"I personally think if you're serious about winning the Open, you've got to be playing tournament golf at least before it,” Padraig Harrington said last week at the Irish Open at Lahinch. “You'd rather be playing links golf and being in a tournament than just [playing] on your own, so if you're serious about trying to win the Open, you should be playing at least one, if not two, of the events running into it.
He won the Masters from memory. He won’t be able to do that at Royal Portrush. His play in the last two majors has ranged from ordinary to awful, and those were held at two courses that he knows quite well: Bethpage Black and Pebble Beach. It’s not as if Woods can’t learn Portrush in a practice round. His golf IQ might be the highest ever in the game. But even Woods will run into situations there that he won’t be readily able to solve.
"I do think links golf is different,” Harrington said. “You're giving up some shots if you don't play some links golf in the couple of weeks coming up to [the Open]. There's no better way to understand your clubbing than when you've got a card in your hand, and if you under-club there's a little bit of pain and you remember it."
He’s 43 years old and needs more than just a couple of days to shake off jet lag and become accustomed to a five-hour time difference – and six hours on an airplane (see Item One). Yes, he’s a passenger on his own plane and he will be able to stretch and lie down when he wants. But six hours on any plane and crossing five time zones is not good for body or mind.
Jim “Bones” Mackay, Phil Mickelson’s former caddie and a Golf Channel commentator, said on the Saturday telecast from Lahinch that he believes the most important thing about coming to the U.K. a week (or more) early is to adjust to the time change.
At 43, he won’t bounce back like he used to.
Woods will not read this and get inspiration from it. Jack Nicklaus read a newspaper clipping from the late Tom McCollister of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that someone put on the refrigerator in the house where Nicklaus and his family were staying at the 1986 Masters. McCollister wrote that Nicklaus was washed up at age 46 and had no shot to win.
Woods won’t do that. It might have been his last chance.
Mike Purkey has written about golf for more than 30 years for a number of publications, including Golf Magazine and Global Golf Post. He lives in Charlotte, N.C. Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @mikepurkeygolf