US Open 2012: Win at Olympic Will Jump-Start Woods' Assault on Majors Record
Like the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes, we may be watching the rebirth of one of the greatest golfers who ever lived, albeit as a much different player.
The style of play that Tiger Woods has displayed in the U.S. Open this week is a far cry from the player we once knew, but this new style has the 36-year-old in the thick of contention and may be just what Woods needed to jump-start his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 major victories.
Woods entered the third round of action at Olympic Golf Club in San Francisco tied for the lead at one under par playing a much more conservative style of golf than we've grown accustomed to.
While Woods fell off the pace a bit with an up-and-down round Saturday, the success Woods has enjoyed to this point playing with less abandon and more patience has been undeniable.
There have been some indications of this new tactic before this week's tournament, as Woods has been forgoing trying to knock the ball into the next county many times this year in favor of using a 3-wood or even a long iron off the tee.
Granted, Woods, who was for years one of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour, has seen his average driving distance drop to under 296 yards, ranking 30th on the tour, according to ESPN.com.
However, this has also increased Woods' accuracy off the tee significantly, and it's much easier to play a second shot from the fairway at 210 yards then it is to play a shot from 175 yards that ricocheted off a cart path, hit a 52-year-old man in the shin and then came to rest in a ditch.
This in turn creates much better approach-shot opportunities for Woods, which leads to more greens in regulation. More greens in regulation leads to more manageable birdie and par opportunities, which not only makes for lower scores (which are kind of important in golf) but also serves to increase Tiger's confidence.
Should Woods be able to ride this new "style" of play to victory in the U.S. Open it will not only net him his 15th major tournament victory but also set him up quite nicely for next month's British Open.
"Links" courses such as the Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club, where this year's Open will be held, favor accuracy over power with their multiple bunkers and windy conditions, and Woods' new "short game" approach should work quite well in theory across the pond.
(It's either that, or Tiger could take the John Daly approach, which involves guzzling 11 beers and then just hitting the ball as hard as humanly possible. As amusing as "Tiger Daly" might be to watch, I kind of doubt that Woods will adopt that strategy, especially since it also entails gaining 55 pounds.)
Regardless of what happens Sunday, it's been a fantastic weekend for golf if only because Tiger Woods is back in the spotlight for the right reasons, those being his solid play on the course.
If Woods can hoist the U.S. Open Championship Trophy (don't hurt yourself naming it fellas) that spotlight will just get brighter, and a pursuit of immortality that went from seemingly inevitable to questionable at best just might get its groove back.
As much as I admire and respect Jack Nicklaus (as an Ohio native it's in my contract), I hope it does. Records, after all, are made to be broken.
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