Tiger Woods’ best chance to chalk up that long-overdue 15th major championship -- and remain healthy -- is to stay out of that pesky fescue that runs rampant at Muirfield this week.
Woods, who tweaked an already sore left elbow by having to muscle his way out of the extremely punitive rough at Merion during the U.S. Open, said Sunday he was “full go” for this week’s British Open as long as he can sidestep the deep stuff at Muirfield.
“I started chipping and putting a little over a week ago and I'm full go for the British Open,” Woods said on his website. “I'm very confident that my left elbow strain won't be a problem and I will be able to hit all the shots I need to hit. That's why I took the time off, so it could heal, and I would feel comfortable playing again.
“I'm still taking anti-inflammatory medication for my elbow and getting treatment,” Woods added, “but the big thing at Muirfield Golf Club will be to avoid the rough.”
The 14-time major champion has to hope his driver behaves better than it has of late if he’s to keep his balls on the fairways. He ranks 78th in driving accuracy on the PGA Tour.
Woods hurt his arm during The Players Championship in May. His pain, which was evident as he struggled to get his balls out of the rough during last month’s U.S. Open, forced him to withdraw from the AT&T National. Tiger strolled the Muirfield fairways with girlfriend Lindsey Vonn on Monday during a practice round, but noted that there may be some rust in his game due to the unexpected layoff.
"Although I have been playing every day, I also have to get back into a competitive feel,” Woods wrote. “The practice rounds are going to be important for how that particular golf course is playing."
Despite his injury and lackluster performance in his most recent starts (T65 at the Memorial and a T32 at the U.S. Open), the world No. 1 remains the favorite to win at Muirfield, a course that ate him up in his last competitive start there in 2002. Woods carded an 81, his highest tally as a professional, during the stormy third round of the Open Championship 11 years ago.
"This marks my second trip to Muirfield. My first visit in 2002 didn't go very well,” Woods said. “I caught the worst of the weather and wound up tying for 28th. That's just the nature of links golf. Luck plays a big part in it, and you never know what you're going to get.”
Even with the memory of that wretched round, Woods claimed he was looking forward to tackling the track that he and the world’s best will play this week as they try to unseat defending champion Ernie Els.
"Muirfield is one of the hardest courses in Scotland,” he said. “The front nine is basically played clockwise and the back nine is played counter-clockwise and on the inside of the front nine. You have to shape the golf ball both ways, and you never know what's going to come off that water as far as wind. It can change directions. If the wind switches, you can be aggressive on certain holes and others you have to be conservative. That's the neat thing about a British Open: You just never know what type of conditions you're going to get each day.
"I love the creativity of being able to hit shots and utilize the ground as an asset,” noted Woods. “That's something that we don't have in the States; we don't really play that game here."