Normal service has resumed. Any lingering doubts about TIGER WOODS‘ form after missing the cut at the Open Championship, re-inforced by a poor opening round at last week’s Buick Open, were swiftly put to bed with a typically fearsome response. Though Tiger probably sees his 2009 campaign as a failure due to disappointing performances in the Majors, Sunday’s victory was his fourth from just ten strokeplay starts since returning from knee surgery. Take out those strangely elusive Majors, and his record is a mightily impressive four wins from seven.
Everything bodes well for Woods then as he enters the pivotal golfing months of August and September, starting with one of his very favourite events, the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. Held annually at the extremely long par-70 of Firestone Country Club, this event is arguably his strongest chance on the schedule. The other candidate for that honour is Torrey Pines, home to the Buick Invitational and 2008 US Open; a course where Tiger has won his last five tournaments.
There are two main similarities between the two courses; gruelling length and smaller than average greens. At Firestone, the fairways are wide and the greens amongst the fastest seen all year; all of which combines to create a testing layout that strongly accentuates Woods’ dominance over the rest. His record at this course from ten visits since turning pro reads six titles including the last three, and no worse result than 5th. On his last visit in 2007, Woods won this title by eight shots, and after last week’s three stroke victory another one-sided affair looks very plausible.
Even though Woods drifted markedly again at Warwick Hills before coming through, to the delight of in-running backers who wait for such a drift, his chance at Firestone is so obvious that the pre-tournament odds of 7/4 must be taken. Most bookies have taken the hint and priced up an alternative ‘without Tiger’ market, and that is where the remainder of our attention should lie.