Wednesday 26 October 2016


Tiger says wind will be Spieth's biggest rival in Open quest

As the last player to arrive at the Open Championship having won the first two majors of the season, Tiger Woods knows the magnitude of what Jordan Spieth will try to achieve at St Andrews this week.

But having seen his own chances of an unprecedented calendar grand slam blown away at Muirfield in 2002, Woods believes the pressure of attempting to create history will not be the biggest obstacle the 21-year-old faces.

"It's about understanding how to play the golf course under various winds," said Woods, who was two shots off the halfway lead in 2002, but shot 81 in the third round on as the later starters battled gale-force winds.

"I think that's where experience comes into play.

"You have to hit the ball well. You have to really lag putt well here. But if you haven't seen the golf course in various winds, bunkers that you don't even see on the yardage book all of a sudden become apparent.

"Sometimes you've got to play into adjacent fairways. That's not something you try and do on purpose back in the States. I've hit shots in adjacent fairways, but never on purpose, but here it does work to your advantage at times because then that will give you actually the best angle."

Spieth had only played one previous round on the Old Course before completing 18 holes in practice on Monday evening, the Masters and US Open champion having taken an overnight flight from Illinois after defeating Tom Gillis in a play-off to win the John Deere Classic.

The world number two has attempted to overcome his lack of experience by using a simulator at his home in Dallas, but Woods added: "You can see the golf course on a simulator and it's fantastic. I've seen it. But playing in the different winds, shaping shots completely differently from one day to the next on the same hole, it does help seeing the golf course under different winds.

"He's playing well, obviously. It's just a matter of going out there and executing his game plan. You have to execute it and trust it and be a very good lag putter because a good shot sometimes is going to be 40, 50, 60, 70 feet away."

Woods made his Open debut at St Andrews as an amateur in 1995 - when Spieth was four days away from his second birthday - and has twice lifted the Claret Jug on the Old Course.

However, the last of his 14 major victories was the 2008 US Open and the former world number one starts the week ranked 241st in the world after a number of dreadful performances this season.

The 39-year-old recorded his highest US Open score ever with an opening round of 80 at Chambers Bay and went on to miss just his fifth halfway cut in 68 majors as a professional.

After recording just one round in the 80s in the paid ranks before this year, that was Woods's third in the space of six events following an 82 in the Waste Management Phoenix Open and a career-worst 85 in the Memorial Tournament.


But after a bogey-free closing round of 67 in the Greenbrier Classic a fortnight ago, Woods was in defiant mood when asked if he had given up hope of beating Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major titles.

"No, not at all. I'm still young. I'm not 40 yet," Woods said. "I know some of you guys think I'm buried and done, but I'm still right here in front of you. I love playing. I love competing, and I love playing these events.


"I feel like my body is finally healed up from the (back) surgery from last year. They say it takes you about four to six months to get back, but I've heard a lot of guys on tour who have had the surgery, and other athletes, say it takes over a year to get back. I think they were probably closer to being right.

"It would have been one thing if I would have gone through the procedure and then had the same golf swing, but I've changed the golf swing too on top of that, and so I had to fight both at the same time."

While Woods insists his career is not dead and buried, he did reveal one unusual item on his bucket list.

"I've always wanted to play the Old Course backwards, one time before I die. I want to play from 1 to 17, 2 to 16, so forth and so on," he added.

"I think that would be just a blast because I can see how certain bunkers - why would they put that there? And then if you play it backwards, you see it. That one day would be a lot of fun to be able to do."

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