GULLANE, Scotland (Reuters) - Tiger Woods may employ the no-driver strategy the American used to ease to a two-shot victory in the 2006 British Open at Hoylake as he attempts to end a five-year wait for a major win at Muirfield this week.
Much like the Royal Liverpool links seven years ago, the venue for the 142nd British Open is bone dry and the players have been getting so much run on the ball in practice that it reduces the need to risk the longest club in the bag.
”I only hit one driver that week,“ Woods told reporters on Tuesday, referring to his Hoylake experience. ”This course is similar to that, it’s quick.
”I’ve played here three days now and I’ve only hit a couple of drivers. On some of the holes, the four-iron is going 280 yards and the three-iron is going a little over 300.
“On the (575-yard) 17th yesterday, I hit two three-irons and ended up over the green. The neat thing about links golf is that it’s predictable but also unpredictable at the same time.”
The 14-times major winner, who is confident he has recovered from the elbow strain that has kept him out of action since last month’s U.S. Open, smiled from ear to ear when asked about his feelings towards the British Open.
”I love this championship. I just think it’s so neat to be able to play this type of golf,“ the world number one said. ”There are only certain places in the world in which we can.
”Here and probably the Australian sandbelt courses are the only places where we can truly play links-type golf, bounce the ball up, shape shots and really be creative.
”I fell in love with it 18 years ago when I first came over here and my introduction was Carnoustie at the Scottish Open and St Andrews (for the British Open) for back-to-back weeks. That’s as good as it gets.
“Generally we play around the world an airborne game, where you have to hit the ball in the air and make it stop,” Woods said.
“Here it’s different. A draw will go one way, a fade will go another and they are so dramatic. I just absolutely love it.”
Love, however, was definitely not in the air the last time he played at Muirfield when the Open was won by South African Ernie Els in 2002.
Woods slumped to an 81, the worst score of his professional career, as he battled against miserable cold and wet conditions in the third round.
”I’ve tried to forget it,“ the American added with a grin. ”I just happened to catch the weather at the worst time and I didn’t play well at the same time so it was a double whammy.
“That was the worst weather I’ve ever played ... and no one was prepared for it. We were told there was a slight chance of showers, obviously the forecast was very wrong on that,” he laughed.
“None of us were prepared clothing wise. A lot of guys just had golf shirts and a rain jacket and that was it,” said Woods.
“The windchill was in the 30s (Fahrenheit) and the umbrella became useless because the wind was blowing so hard. It was just a cold, cold day.”
Woods shrugged off the notion his confidence had been dented following his five-year stretch without a major victory.
“I feel very good about my game and I’ve had a pretty good year this year so far. I’ve won four times,” said the 2000, 2005 and 2006 British Open champion.
”Even though I haven’t won a major in five years, I’ve been there in a bunch of them where I’ve had chances.
“I just need to keep putting myself there and eventually I’ll get some,” Woods said.
Editing by John O'Brien