Tiger Woods may be pleased with how he’s hitting the ball heading into the British Open at St. Andrews, but to Brandel Chamblee, the three-time Open Championship winner is "a shell of the man" who captured two of those titles on this week’s venue at St. Andrews.
Woods, as is his habit no matter what others observe with the naked eye, says he’s pleased with how he’s playing and likes his chances of capturing his fourth Claret Jug.
"[I] hit the ball the best I've hit it in probably two years on Sunday," Woods said Tuesday about his efforts at the Greenbrier Classic two weeks ago that produced a T32 finish. "So that was awfully nice to be able to do coming into this week. I've hit the ball just as well then in my practice rounds."
Not surprisingly, the Golf Channel analyst who has gained renown as one of Tiger’s most vocal critics, was less impressed with Woods’ game than the ball-striker himself.
Sure, Chamblee gave Woods credit for improvements he has made since he was a hot mess of chili dips and bladed wedges early in 2015, finished last of those who made the cut at the Memorial after a career-worst 85 in the third round, and missed the U.S. Open cut.
"Coming from where he was to where he ended up at Greenbrier," Chamblee said Tuesday from Scotland about Woods’ final-round 67 that featured his first bogey-free round since August 2013, "Yeah, I’d be pleased as well."
Tiger Woods rounds in 60s this season Entering week - 2 This week - 3— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 5, 2015
Make no mistake, though; in Woods, Chamblee sees a golfer who bears no resemblance to the one who lapped the Old Course field by a total of 13 strokes in his two victories (an eight-shot margin in 2000, five shots in 2005).
Chamblee measured the world-beating, world No. 1 of 2000 against the currently 241st-ranked player and said there was virtually no likeness between the two.
"Watching Tiger Woods go from belief to doubt, watching him build his body up and then watching it break down, and then watching him having to reconcile all of those difficulties and then try and manufacture a game and to see how much he struggles with that mentally," Chamblee said, "he is a shell of the man that he was when he came here in 2000 and 2005."
@GolfCentral @GCTigerTracker @chambleebrandel I think BC is pulling a Herb Brooks and trying to motivate TW. Or maybe he's just a hater.— Jeff Huhn (@HuhnJeff) July 14, 2015
Or maybe just an analyst. https://t.co/CrsRlRyK96— brandel chamblee (@chambleebrandel) July 14, 2015
The golfer who has not won a major in more than seven years and hits little more than 50 percent of fairways off the tee is not the same one who, in 2000, avoided every one of the 112 bunkers that are the hallmark of the Old Course, said Chamblee.
"All of those obstacles that he was able to avoid here in 2000 and 2005, he’s going to have to deal with in 2015," said Chamblee.
The outspoken pundit also noted that the player who ranked 70th in total driving out of 78 Greenbrier competitors and averages drives of 296.5 yards slammed it 341 yards at St. Andrews in 2005 and 320 in 2000.
Woods, who has not played enough events since 2013 to earn tour rankings in any categories, is also not the same maestro with a flat stick he was in his prime, as Chamblee put him at 145th in 2015 in three-putt avoidance. Tiger, he said, was also averaging four shots per round higher than when he won at St. Andrews in 2005, and five shots worse than in 2000.
As for the vaunted "proximity to the hole" stat that stood out at the Greenbrier?
Tiger Woods had the best proximity mark of his career (23'-11") at Greenbrier. Also was first in field for 6th time. (since '03) @ShotLink— Bill Cooney (@BillCooney4653) July 6, 2015
Tiger Woods' proximity to the hole last week was 23'11" - the BEST in his @PGATOUR career since they've been keeping track (2003).— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 6, 2015
Chamblee shot down that bright spot in Woods’ arsenal as essentially meaningless on a "pretty short course" with soft greens.
"The proximity to the hole for the field was almost 8 feet closer to the hole than it was for the tour average," Chamblee said. "So it was a very easy golf course to hit good irons on."
It was not all doom and gloom from Chamblee, who remarked that Woods was moving off the ball and getting behind it as he made "some wonderful changes in his golf swing."
But -- and there’s always a ‘but’ when Chamblee talks Tiger -- Woods needs to lose the bulk he’s put on from years of weight training if he is to accomplish all he needs to with his swing.
"I do like the changes he’s making in his golf swing, but I do think he’ll have to get a little thinner to get the hands a little higher and get that golf swing a little longer, and then the speed would come back," said Chamblee. "That’s a different issue than the problems that he’s still having around and on the greens."
Ah, the short game. Just when it looked as if Tiger could check that off his to-do list, Chamblee said not so fast.
"You cannot play golf at the highest level if you’re not brilliant around the greens," he said. "And all of those issues that everybody thought were shored up at Augusta National -- and certainly they looked well that week -- they have become an issue again."
So, um, welcome back to St. Andrews, Tiger.
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