Why Tiger Woods' Driver Cost Him a 15th Major at Royal Lytham & St. Annes

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistJuly 25, 2012

LYTHAM ST ANNES, ENGLAND - JULY 22:  Tiger Woods of the United States watches his tee shot on the 11th hole during the final round of the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club on July 22, 2012 in Lytham St Annes, England.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

The golf club that Tiger Woods hit a mere handful of times all week at Royal Lytham & St. Annes likely cost him the 2012 Open Championship.

Woods’ fortunes, like those of many other great golfers, have always been largely determined by two clubs—his driver and his putter.

Last week at Royal Lytham and St. Annes, Woods’ driver potentially cost him a 15th major championship victory. Only this time it wasn’t because he was spraying his driver in a manner that Woods often refers to as “military golf”—left-right-left-right.

Nope, Woods’ driver cost him last week’s Open because he had such little confidence in the club that he used it less than 10 times all week and the number of times he actually hit the fairway with his driver could be counted on one hand.  

Now, Royal Lytham and St. Annes is a treacherous driving course with numerous bunkers that come into play around the landing areas. So, most of the field were hitting drivers less often last week than they normally would during a major championship.

That being said, you’d have an incredibly hard time trying to find a player that hit his driver fewer times than Woods did last week.

The result was that Woods was often left hitting five-irons 200-plus yards into par fours while his opponents were hitting 175-yard eight irons into the same holes.

The amazing thing is that Woods managed to hang with the field for three days while playing a style of golf that we really haven’t seen for 40 years.

If this were, say, 1950, when equipment simply didn’t allow players to maul 7,700-yard courses, Woods might have won that Open by 10 strokes; he hit his long irons that well for the majority of the week.

But this is 2012, where guys are able to drive the ball 340 yards on a string and hit wedges into greens on 465-yard par fours.

Woods’ problem was that he actually had more confidence in hitting four irons into par fours than he did taking his driver out of the bag and potentially having an eight or nine iron into the same hole.

His incredible long-iron play allowed him to hang with the field for three days, but in the end, when push came to shove, he was facing a field of highly talented modern day golfers who had no problem piping 340-yard drives down the middle of the fairway and hitting wedges to within 10 feet on 465-yard par fours.

The laws of statistics simply weren’t in Woods favor last week. If you hit four irons into greens long enough while your opponents are hitting eight and nine irons, you will inevitably wind up with far fewer legitimate birdie opportunities.  

For one of the greatest golfer of all time, Woods has always been surprisingly inaccurate with his driver, and he could probably sit for an hour and go through every major he let slip away due to his inability to hit the fairway off of the tee.

Last week Woods once again let a major slip away as a result of his driver; the only difference was that on this occasion be barely even took his driver out of the bag.    

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