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Open Notes: Tiger Woods’ game plan is well suited to Olympic

June 15th, 2012 · No Comments

In The Big Miss, Hank Haney expounded on Tiger Woods’ ongoing troubles with his driver – then concluded with this prediction:

“Unless he finds some kind of late-career fix with the driver, Tiger’s best chances in majors will come with firm, fast running fairways that will allow him to hit irons off the tee. Of the four majors, the British Open best fits this profile.”

In the first round at the Olympic Club, Woods hit 10 of 14 fairways to tie for second best in the field. However, only three of those came with the driver, which Woods used only three times (on 9, 10, and 16). The rest of the time he fitted his tee shots into the narrow, sloping, and fast running fairways with an assortment of shorter clubs, a game plan that was reminiscence of his dissection of Hoylake, where he won the 2006 British Open.

Before play began, Woods was listed at 6/1 by Ladbrokes. After his solid opening 69, which made him the defacto first round leader (though he trails the unknown Michael Thompson by three), Ladbrokes now has him at measly odds of 5/2.

Par IS just a number
Par had little relation to what the field shot in the first round of the U.S. Open. The average score was 74.923, or nearly five shots over Olympic’s par of 70. The USGA likes to convert the par on some holes so it conforms to their notion of what it the correct par. Well, if you let the player’s scores determine par, Olympic’s par needs several adjustments. If we rounded par to the nearest whole number, holes 1, 5, and 6 should be par fives. And the 670 yard par five 17th should, with an average score of 5.564, actually be a par 6!

Those First Six Holes
Johnny Miller predicted that the field would average three over par on the first six holes. He was close as the field averaged 2.76 strokes over par. Olympic’s unbalanced layout was reflected by the scoring on these brutes – they ranked 1, 6, 5, 9, 4, 3 in difficulty. The 16th, which played as a par 5.5, was the only hole outside of the Gruesome Six to make it into the top third in difficulty. JUST HEARD THIS: On Morning Drive, Jerry Foltz said, “I don’t think there is an imbalance.” Say what???

The Marquee Pairing
There was much speculation (including by me) about the possible negative impact that putting Woods (69), Phil Mickelson (76), and Bubba Watson (78) together would have on their games. Well, I watched their entire round, and my feeling is that the crowd had little impact on their results. Tiger played like the New/Old Tiger – the hybrid of his previous mental game and his Foley Swing. Phil thrashed it around as if often does these days. And Bubba played Bubba Golf, entertaining the crowd with his driver heavy strategy while seemingly caring little about posting a decent score on a course that he disdains.

The WGR Top 10
Tiger Woods now seems well positioned to win his fifteenth major. Part of the reason is, of course, his stellar play of late. Another would be the implosion of the WGR’s number 1, 2, 5, and 10. As a whole, the Top 10 averaged 73.4, about 2.5 shots better than the field.

1  Luke Donald (79)
2  Rory McIlroy (77)
3  Lee Westwood (73)
4  Tiger Woods (69)
5  Bubba Watson (78)
6  Matt Kuchar (70)
7  Justin Rose (69)
8  Hunter Mahan (72)
9  Jason Dufner (72)
10  Dustin Johnson (75)

Tags: PGA Tour · The Majors


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