Tiger’s thoughts about winning this British: ‘Who knows?’

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland—Who knows? That was the question asked by Tiger Woods. Of himself.

  Who knows if Tiger, well past his 43rd birthday, is able to win this 147th British Open? Is able to win any golf tournament, major or not?.

  Who knows if the weather, warm, inviting for all Great Britain, indeed for most of Western Europe, will hold for another week or instead with wind and rain turn the Open into the challenge it was meant to be.

  For a while, at St. Andrews, then at Hoylake, Tiger Woods owned the Open, shooting record scores. But that was then, before the emergence of Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. Before the back surgeries, which made Woods a spectator instead of an entrant.

   Now, at Carnoustie, “Car-nasty,”  north of St. Andrews, across the Firth of Tay, in Angus, Woods returns to the Open after an absence of two years, a man of experience and doubt, not a favorite but still the focus,

   To ESPN, he’s the only man on the course, any course, any event. To both the purist and the casual fan he’s the eternal unanswered query: “Is Tiger Woods going to win another major?”

   The sarcastic response would be, not with Brooks Koepka or Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson or Justin Thomas in the field. But golf is different than any sport except bowling. There’s no defense. The only effect you have on an opponent is psychological.

   Tiger was on the media room stage Tuesday, facing the skeptics, who as every tournament he plays-- the Open, which starts Thursday is his 12th of 2018—wonder how much trust should be placed on Woods’ chances. How’s his swing? More importantly, how’s his confidence?

“Each tournament I keep coming back to,” Woods said, perhaps as much to persuade himself as anyone, “I keep feeling a little bit better because I’m starting to play golf again. My feels are much better than they were at the beginning of the year.

 “I have a better understanding of my game and my body and my swing, much more so than I did at Augusta.”

That’s the Masters, in April, where he tied for 32nd.  Two months later, the U.S. Open, at Shinnecock Hills, a more punishing course than Augusta National, Woods missed the cut, but so did Spieth, McIlroy and Sergio Garcia.

    A couple after  that, the Quicken Loans event, Tiger tied for fourth.

  He’s changed putters for the British. He’s modified his swing, if only slightly. Everything, he insisted, is a little better. It should be by the middle of July, after weeks on different courses in different locations.

  “I’ve put myself up there in contention a couple of times,” said Woods. “I just need to play some cleaner golf and who knows?”

   The Open is links golf, always played on the hard, fast fairways of linksland, along the coasts of Britain  that thousands of years ago were under the Atlantic Ocean or North Sea.

  It is golf played along the ground, with balls rolling forever, golf that demands creativity, golf Tiger said he relishes, hitting a low-running iron 250 t0 300 yards, golf that enables an older player such as Tom Watson in 2009 at Turnberry when he was 59 and lost in a playoff, to keep up with the young guns.

“I’ve always loved playing links golf,” said Woods. “Feel has a lot to do with winning the Open. I think the guys traditionally over the years who have done well have been wonderful feel players and because it can be difficult to get the ball close, wonderful lag putters.”

   Guys like Watson, who won five Opens; guys like Gary Player, who won three, including here at Carnoustie in 1968; and guys like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Seve Ballesteros won two apiece.

  “There definitely were points in time,” said Woods referring to his post-surgical recovery, “I thought I’d never play in this championship again. Watching it on TV is great, but it’s better in person. I remember how it feels to come down to the last hole with a chance to win. “

  Will he ever have that feeling again? As he said, who knows?

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