While Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson pledged to take more conservative approaches at this week’s British Open than they are wont to do, Tiger Woods said he planned an aggressive attack of Royal Lytham & St Annes.
England’s extremely wet summer, which will likely include rain, rain and more rain for the rest of the week, had something to do with Woods’ stated strategy.
“The game plan is different," Woods told reporters Tuesday, ahead of Thursday's Open Championship start. "I have got to hit a few more drivers and 3-woods than I did [when he won his third and last Open title at Hoylake in 2006]. At Hoylake on the downwind holes, I was hitting 3- and 4-irons 300 yards at times just because it was playing fast and blowing."
“But this is different. It’s much wetter and the bunkers are staggered differently here,” said Woods, who earned the scorn of Britain’s tabloids when he complained on Sunday that the rough at Royal Lytham was “almost unplayable”due to the soggy conditions. “There are some forced carries where you have to force it and then stop it or try and skirt it past them. You can’t just lay up or bomb it over the top. There has to be some shape to your shots.”
Woods’ intent stood in stark contrast to that of two storied southpaws he’ll be competing with this week. Mickelson, who warmed up in Scotland last week, said there would be several holes where he would “be more conservative off the tee to give myself a good look.”
Even Watson, who’s known for his take-no-prisoners approach to the game, said he would try to tone down “Bubba Golf” for the week.
“I’ve got to hit every fairway, and with the driver sometimes I get a little wild, as we know,” Watson said. “The high rough ... it’s not like our rough in the U.S. This is hay that is 15 yards off the fairway, 10 yards off on some of the holes, and you might not find your ball. You have to play smart. This golf course, and the U.S. Open, they make you play to a strategy and have to play a certain way, so you have to do that.
“There could be a day out of four days that I can just beat driver everywhere and play great golf,” Watson added. “But four days in a row to get that lucky, to not have a bad lie or find all my balls, that would be tough to do.”
Given all that, Watson said he expected to hit a bunch of irons off the tees, “try to play safer, smarter -- whatever you want to call it -- and just have a longer shot into some of these holes. The par 5, No. 7, I’m going to hit iron off that tee even though I could reach it if I hit it in the fairway with a driver ... I just have to figure out a way to lay back and just have a longer shot into some of these holes.”
Still, the big bomber, whose PGA Tour-leading average driving distance is more than 316 yards, wasn’t making any promises.
“That doesn’t mean I’m going to be able to do that,” noted Watson, who hoped to improve upon his British Open record of two missed cuts and a T30. “That’s my goal.”
As for Woods, he believes the last man standing will be someone who can bring the high heat.
“You just have to look at the list of former champions to see they are all wonderful ball strikers,” he said. “It’s a real test. You have to be able to shape the ball both ways.”