Tiger Woods, as students of the 14-time major champion are well aware, is not keen about playing on greens that are not fiery as hell. So it came as no surprise that, after playing his first few holes at St. Andrews in preparation for this week’s Open Championship, Woods was stunned by how soft and slow the putting surfaces were on the Old Course.
"I was shocked," Woods said about his turn around the track on Saturday. "I had seen photos of it a month ago. It was bone dry. It looked like it was going to be one of those dust bowls again; hard, fast, like the years I've played St. Andrews. It's changed. They got big rain and a lot of sun."
Woods got his first taste of the venue on which he won his first two Claret Jugs and finished T23 in 2010 by playing three holes with five junior players from the area who were participating in a Nike golf training camp. He maintained he would have to adjust his game plan for the tournament, especially for the greens on which he claimed he could never remember making ball marks.
Rain expected to fall on St. Andrews over the next few days will only make the conditions less favorable to Woods, who expected the greens to be soft for the entire week.
Woods is a Johnny One Note when it comes to complaining about putting on syrupy grass. He blasted the R&A for slowing the Muirfield greens in the middle of the 2013 British Open.
Tiger loves fast greens, the greens are slow today. Tiger has hit two putts slow - do the math— Shosh Agus-Kleinman (@ShoshEAK) July 21, 2013
After making the cut at the Masters in April, Woods took to his soap box to lobby the green jackets about the sticky surfaces at Augusta.
"The only thing I really struggled with was the pace of the greens. I just couldn’t believe they were as slow as they were," Woods said after grinding out an opening-round 1-over 73 on his way to a T17. "We were all struggling with it in our group. We were talking about it all day. It was just hard to keep yourself committed to hit the putts that hard, even if they’re downhill."
Tiger: Greens are slow at #TheMasters - everybody drink!— Emily Kay (@golfexaminer) April 10, 2015
Woods, coming off a T32 at the Greenbrier Classic, often has problems adapting to sticky turf, so his touch on the greens at St. Andrews could be the difference between a British Open to remember or a trip across the pond he would rather forget.
As ESPN analyst Dottie Pepper pointed out before last year’s Masters, deadened greens have always been Woods’ primary problem (before the chipping yips and everything else of the past couple of years).
"When [Tiger] was a youngster ... his dad had said, 'If you want to Tiger-proof a golf course, just slow down the greens,'" Pepper said. "It’s not about making it longer, narrower, anything else. Just slow down the greens. He’s not comfortable when they get a little pokey."
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