16 June 2012

Tiger On The Prowl As 112th US Open Moves Into Full Swing

Tiger Woods is finally starting to look like the player he was when he was winning all those majors a few years ago. Since being beaten to the 2009 USPGA Championship by YE Yang he is yet to look that threatening in a major again. Three tied for fourth finishes since then have shown that he can still shoot low rounds in majors, but he has yet to string four good rounds together. This season he has picked up his first two PGA Tour victories since 2009 and seems to be in good shape and full of confidence. 

His pitch on the 16th green at Memorial two weeks ago was nothing short of sensational. If he under-hit it he could have not made the green, if he over-hit it he would have gone at least 10ft past and maybe in the water. However, he caught it to absolute perfection and the ball dropped delightfully into the cup to bring back memories of that famous chip at Augusta's 16th in 2005. Jack Nicklaus said that Tiger's latest magic moment was the 'best shot he had ever seen' and Tiger seemed pretty pleased with it as well saying that it was 'not bad'. "It was one of the hardest shots I've pulled off. If I leave it short, it rolls left, if I hit it long it's in the water. The lie wasn't that great. It came out just perfect."

For the first time in a long time Woods seemed to have his old self-confidence back after his Memorial win: "Boy, I hit it good," he said. "I never really missed a shot, I had the pace of the greens really nice and made a few putts."

Now he is following on from that win with a very accomplished performance so far at the difficult Olympic Club. Rounds of 69 and 70 have given him a share of the halfway lead and his overall play is looking back to its best. A grinding style is required to do well round this course and Tiger said he's "just playing for a lot of pars. This is not a tournament where we have to make a bunch of birdies." Unlike what many people may think, this is the type of course that suits Woods down to the ground. On such difficult courses only the very best can shoot a round near par and Woods is definitely one of the best and his statistics showed that yesterday with 11/14 fairways hit and 14/18 greens in regulation. History proves that Tiger thrives on harder courses with his three previous US Open wins coming on very tough courses. In 2008 his winning score was just -1, in 2002 it was -3 and although he shot -12 in 2000, his closest competitors were 15 strokes back at +3.

However the style of game most suited to this golf course is the grinding style effectively used by old-timers Jim Furyk and David Toms. With one major win a-piece these two players will fancy their chances of taking a second on Sunday. Aged 42 and 45 respectively their experience has helped them so far this week. Solid play and good scrambling and putting have been rewarded this week and Toms, Furyk and 2010 US Open winner Graeme McDowell have all shown these qualities. As a result all are in with a shout of stopping a Woods procession. 

As the tournament heads into the weekend it appears that the world's best will have to continue to scrap hard against the course in one of golf's most difficult tests. Tiger now looks as dangerous as ever and he will be expected to take his major tally to 15 as he endeavours to reel in Nicklaus's magic number of 18. Despite this there will be plenty of other players still hoping to have a decisive say over the weekend in what could become one of the game's most famous tournaments.

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