Tiger Woods and the British Open Championship, aka the Open Championship to anyone not from the US, return to the Old Course at St. Andrews today for the 150th playing of the Open Championship. Make no doubt about it, the Open is golf’s most historic, significant, and best major championship — if a golfer could only win one tournament, it’d be this one. Golf has been played over the links of the Old Course for nearly 600 years — all four major US sports have not been around that long combined. St Andrews is to a golfer what a mosque is to a muslim, a synagogue to a Jew. I’ve been lucky enough to play the course before, and the word “mystical” describes this place to a “T.”
So let’s get right to it — Tiger Woods will win the 2010 Open Championship at St. Andrews. While his wife and the rest of the world have taken their respective turns passing judgement on Woods following his infidelity fiasco, golf will ultimately judge Woods this week. And rather than hours of practice or a successful day of outpatient sex addiction rehab, it will be the course and the place that is St. Andrews that will ultimately raise Woods’ game. Woods has dominated here in the past, showing a unique ability to stay out of the hundreds of bunkers that litter the course. While his game is not nearly in the form it has been in his previous victories, the course demands style of play that I think Tiger can put together this week. When I first played the course, I hit a 50-yard snap hook off of the 1st tee — I proceeded to watch the ball run all the way across the 1st and 18th fairways, where is settled on a lovely patch of turf and gave me a shot across the fairways to the 1st green. I made a par. That’s how it goes at St. Andrews — you can hit it a bit scattered, so long as you avoid the bunkers. The course does not demand that you hit the ball into a hool-a-hoop from 250 yards out — instead, it rewards the player who can control their trajectory and shot shape, hit creative short game shots, and battle the elements. Even with his game not in perfect form, those are areas where Tiger can still shine.
If Woods doesn’t win this week, I’m finished with predicting his victories. I’ll just wait for him to deliver. If he doesn’t win, he’ll have to look back at 2010 regret — in terms of his personal life as well as golf. To not win at Augusta, or Pebble Beach, or St. Andrews is to be shut out on the major venues that Woods plays the best. In a good year, he’d realistically have a chance to win all three of these events.
I think the venue is perfect, I think Tiger has been practicing, and I think Woods now has a better sense of where his marriage is going. He knows the strategy of playing the old course better than anyone, and can play the course effectively if he brings any game at all with him to Scotland. He’s the man this week.
If you’re looking for other picks, I’d go with Tiger’s playing partner for the first two rounds, Justin Rose, and Lee Westwood.