Tiger Woods practiced with Steve Stricker on Monday at Oak Hill and the world No. 1 was pleased with the way the course that’s hosting this week’s PGA Championship has shaped up since the last time he visited Rochester, N.Y.
Woods, who criticized the sluggish greens he found during a recent practice round, lauded the maintenance crew for putting a bit more fire into the putting surfaces, which, combined with another impromptu session with his short-game guru, could spell doom for everyone else in the field this week.
"They [the greens] certainly have sped up," Woods told reporters Tuesday ahead of Thursday’s kickoff to the final major of the men’s season. "I think they are close to 11-plus now [on the Stimpmeter]. They have picked up a couple feet, easily, and I’m sure they are going to dry them out and roll them a little bit more and get a little bit more speed out of them.
"It’s going to be a great test," Woods proclaimed, no doubt to the relief of course superintendent Jeff Corcoran, who, following Tiger’s complaints, was forced to defend his crew’s efforts to ensure the greens could withstand this week’s major test.
Apparently, the greens, which weathered heavy storms early last month, passed with flying colors. And if he can put into play the tips Stricker offered him Monday about his grip, setup, and how to approach the complex, undulating greens, Woods may end the week with an A+ as well as his 15th major title.
"Stricks and I were talking about that yesterday as we were hitting putts; these little ridges and little waves in the greens, a little bit of grain here and there. They are tough, they are tricky to read," Woods said. "A lot of the long putts had double breaks in them. It's going to be important to hit a lot of greens and give yourself opportunities, because these are a little bit tricky to read, there's no doubt."
About those lessons, Tiger’s Stanford teammate and current Golf Channel analyst Notah Begay III interpreted the motions between Woods and Stricker that the cameras captured on the practice green.
"All the players, and Tiger in particular, is that, when they find something that works...we want to confirm it," Begay said on Tuesday. "He may not necessarily be changing or getting a lesson but Tiger wants to confirm what he’s feeling [in his setup, release, or ball path]."
Begay, to whom Woods has also turned for putting advice, noted that Tiger, like every golfer out there with "fragile" egos, needed to affirm that what he used to do when he was in college or as a young pro was still working.
"I’ll give him my feedback so he can find that little range that he’s looking for," Begay said. "Because with his feel and his ability to work with the putter, he can make minute changes that the rest of us cannot."
The last time Tiger sought Stricker out for some putting advice, as golf fans will recall, he had a career-low week on the greens that led to a two-shot win over his long-time Ryder Cup partner at Doral. That, to Golf Channel’s Tripp Isenhour, was bad news for the other guys hoping to keep Woods at 14 majors and counting.
"If he putts good this week," Isenhour intoned, "it’s over."