Let the frenzy of speculation begin! With the Open championship just 2 ½ weeks away, Tiger Woods claimed his 3rd victory of the season and did so with a game that looked precise, controlled and efficient. He hit some marvelous approach shots coming down the stretch. In particular his approach on 12 that he had to hook from the rough, with a restricted follow through made necessary to avoid breaking his 9 iron against a tree, seemed like vintage Tiger. And in the end he defeated the very game Bo Van Pelt by 2, although the final score was deceptive. In fact, I would make the case that, although Tiger looked for the entire world like the Tiger of old, he didn’t play the best golf for the week—at least statistically.
No, Bo Van Pelt won that battle. Seriously, he did. Van Pelt finished the tournament well ahead of Tiger in virtually every statistical category, including Fairways and Greens Hit in regulation, Driving Distance, and Approach Shot Proximity to the Hole. It really wasn’t close. Those of you who watched Sunday’s telecast might have observed that Van Pelt’s 6 iron second shot to the par 5 sixteenth hole was about one yard from perfect. Had he not been quite so greedy (or had he not slightly pulled that shot), with Tiger already over the green in three and looking at an almost certain bogey, we might be talking today about how Bo stared down Tiger. But for that one yard, Bo Van Pelt may have won. Of course that’s about as pointless as saying “if I were better I’d be good.”
What’s not pointless is that the six iron approach didn’t turn out and Bo faltered just enough in the end to hand the tournament to Tiger. That’s not to say that Tiger didn’t earn the win. He most certainly did. And the reason is that he putted better than Van Pelt. Tiger averaged 28 putts per day to finish 9th in putting to Van Pelt’s 41st place putting performance, thus proving the tired cliché about driving for show and putting for dough. Significant, that.
Perhaps as significant, in my opinion, is that on Sunday, with everything on the line, Tiger lead the field in greens hit in regulation. I’m sorry Bo Van Pelt and the rest the world of professional golf, but if Tiger leads the field in greens hit in regulation, you have no chance. It is game over. That’s the real story of The AT&T.
Tiger’s iron game and his putting are coming back to form in a big way. And that’s a scary thing for the field not so much this week at The Greenbriar Classic but at The Open Championship in a couple weeks. His driver is still a little dodgy and that could cause him fits at the Greenbriar. What about at the Open, you say? Well, consider that Tiger could very well play Royal Lytham without hitting his Driver more than 3 times per day. If Tiger can leave the driver in the bag (and improve his ghastly bunker play), we may not have to watch Sunday's coverage unless we're in an over/under pool on how many he'll win by.
It will be interesting.