(Reuters) - Muirfield Village has been a particularly happy hunting ground for Tiger Woods, who hopes to bag a sixth victory at Jack’s place at this week’s Memorial tournament in Ohio.
But as he tees off in Thursday’s first round of the Jack Nicklaus-hosted tournament nearly five years removed from his most recent victory, Woods is still re-learning the art of closing the deal.
At least that is what Nicklaus says of the man who a few years ago seemed destined to surpass him as the game’s most prolific major winner.
“We all have to learn how to win again,” said 18-times major winner Nicklaus, who remembered the difficultly of winning the 1986 Masters after a six-year drought on tour.
“Tiger has it to draw on but he’s got to get through the barrier of not having done it for a while.”
A tie for second at the Valspar Championship in March proved Woods still has the game to contend, but victory can be an elusive beast.
“I’ve been on runs where it came pretty easy. Other stretches where it was very difficult,” Woods told reporters on Wednesday.
“This is a little different because I’m coming back off not really playing for a while.”
He was referring to the back issues that hobbled him literally and figuratively for some four years before last April’s spinal fusion.
Now six months into his comeback, Woods has yet to close the door.
“I remember the feelings at Valspar. I had a chance to win and it really felt comfortable,” he said.
Nicklaus said he wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see a breakthrough for Woods, who was fitted this week for his American team uniforms for September’s Ryder Cup.
He will be on the U.S. plane to Paris one way or another, either as an assistant captain or a player.
While the Memorial has been good to Woods, Rory McIlroy has yet to win it, and the Northern Irishman said he would have to steer clear of the long rough to have a chance this week.
“It’s U.S. Open rough out there,” McIlroy said. “You can’t control your ball at all.
“You can hardly get it to the greens out of the rough. There will be a lot of (emphasis to) put it in the fairway and take your chances from there.”
Reporting by Andrew Both in Shoal Creek, Alabama; Editing by Ian Ransom