Woods says his game is where it needs to be heading into the US Open, but could he actually win his 15th major at Shinnecock Hills?
Can Tiger Woods Win The US Open?
Tiger Woods even playing in this year’s US Open is a story in itself.
The 14-time major winner has come back to the PGA Tour this year after being on the brink of retirement when he pulled out of the Dubai Desert Classic last year with back spasms.
Woods required a fourth back surgery and, crucially, this time it was a fusion. It was all or nothing, and it went well.
Related: What is back fusion surgery?
So far so good and Tiger has rolled back the years at times this year, like when he finished T2nd at the Valspar Championship and a stretch during the Players Championship where he was eight-under-par after 12 holes in his third round.
The fact that there is even a question of Woods winning at Shinnecock Hills is quite remarkable, but when you look back at his career, he is not a man to be doubted.
Woods initially surprised us all in 2018 with his power hitting – he has averaged over 304 yards off the tee this season and is 12th in the clubhead speed statistics with an average of 121mph.
If distance wasn’t going to be a problem for him post-back surgery, what would?
Well, he has never been the best driver and he has struggled off the tee this year. But he always did.
His SG: Off the tee stats rank him 120th on the PGA Tour for 2018 yet he is 5th in SG: Tee to green, emphasising his remarkable ability to find greens and score despite wayward drives.
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However, his driving has slowly but surely improved through the tournaments and there’s a good chance it could actually be one of his strengths at Shinnecock.
Most recently at the Memorial Tournament, Woods’ ball striking was as good as anyone in the field but it was actually the putter that let him down.
He ranked 1st in the Stroked Gained categories for tee to green and approach, and was first in proximity.
Putting – 2nd last.
He missed seven putts inside 5ft for the week and finished six strokes back of the playoff.
Woods conceded that even a normal week on the greens would have had him right in contention.
So far this season he has shown strengths in all facets of his game but is yet to piece everything together in the same week.
Could it just be that the week it all comes together is at Shinnecock Hills?
“Overall my game is where it needs to be heading into the US Open and that’s something that’s very positive,” he said after the Memorial.
“I hit it really good this week, so that’s a positive going into Shinnecock, where ball striking is going to be a must,” he continued.
These are positive words from Woods, but that’s all they are – words.
He’ll do his talking, like the rest of the players during the week, on the golf course.
Tiger could potentially seal his 15th major title at the US Open, 10 years on from his last major victory at the 2008 US Open.
That was deemed as one of his greatest triumphs where he played 91 holes and beat Rocco Mediate in a sudden death playoff on the Monday despite a broken left tibia and no torn ACL in his left knee.
Would a victory at Shinnecock Hills top that? It would certainly come close.
Age may be a factor but Jack Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters aged 46, Tom Watson almost won at Turnberry in 2009 at the age of 59 and Julios Borros won the 1968 USPGA Championship aged 48.
The 14-time major winner has won three US Opens and finished T17th in his last outing at Shinnecock Hills in 2004. He comes into the week off the back of seven cuts made in a row.
On paper, he certainly looks a contender and the bookies agree – he’s around 16/1 to win.
It would be his first victory for almost five years and after being close to retirement and written off by many, a 15th major title would surely go down in history as one of the greatest moments in the sport’s history.
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