Tiger Woods: Bold Predictions for Weekend at Kiawah Island
Whether Tiger can actually make a serious push to win this time around remains to be seen.
After all, two-time PGA champion Vijay Singh stands in his way, and a hoard of talented players led by superstar Rory McIlroy are in hot pursuit.
How will Tiger fare on moving day? How about on Sunday, when the Wanamaker Trophy is on the line?
Here are bold predictions for Tiger's final two days at Kiawah Island.
Putter Won't Stay Hot on the Weekend
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After 22 putts in his opening-round 69, Tiger Woods again relied heavily on the flatstick on Friday. He one-putted seven of the first nine greens.
Making a living draining tons of clutch putts for par is the recipe to win a major. However, doing it to the extent that Tiger has isn't sustainable.
The three-putt bogey on 18 finally brought Tiger back down to Earth.
Sure, a few clutch putts here and there will be necessary for someone to win. As Peter Kostis said during the broadcast, though, the players who aren't hitting it great will be exposed.
Tiger's putting was the reason he matched the second-lowest round of the day—an impressive one under-par 71—with Ian Poulter, but it won't last for the next two days.
Round 3 Score
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It was a brutal test at Kiawah Island on Friday, with the average score hovering to around 78. That makes Tiger Woods' 71 all the more impressive.
Although he still ranks relatively high compared with other golfers, Round 3 is considered moving day. In 2012, it's when Tiger has lost the most ground in tournaments.
Given the fact that he's never won a major when not having at least a share of the lead entering the final round, Tiger will need to maintain an extremely high level of play—and putting—to score well on Saturday.
Tiger is only one of three players to break par in each of the first two rounds, and I see that trend changing.
After 54 holes, with heightened pressure in a major championship, no one will be under par for all three days.
That said, Tiger has been grinding out pars, spinning in 360-degree putts, and somehow getting by.
His third-round score may not be spectacular, but with the way he's been able to hang tough, he should be in it to win it on Sunday.
Round 3 Score Prediction: 75 (three over-par; one-under for the championship)
3-Wood, Experience Will Separate Tiger from Pretenders
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That trap, cut, stinger 3-wood is going to be Tiger Woods' best friend on the final 36 holes.
No one has that reliable of a go-to shot. Its low trajectory and significant roll will be a huge advantage in such blustery conditions.
Tiger is likely to face approach shots in the range of 175 to 200 yards on average. He ranks first on the PGA Tour in proximity to the hole from that distance.
From even a little further—200 to 225 yards—he ranks eighth. Laying back a bit is no problem for Tiger, and it's a big reason for his success this season.
The Ocean Course is also more likely to bring the elite players in the world to the top of the crop. Players like Carl Pettersson, Jamie Donaldson and Blake Adams are unlikely to hold up based on experience alone.
That takes nothing away from those players, especially with the trend of parity in golf today. Six of the past seven major winners are first-timers.
Still, there are a lot of top players in contention that are rearing for their first major and have more experience in these situations than that trio.
Nothing is a better teacher in majors than experience, and obviously Tiger has the edge over everyone in the field by a long shot in that category.
Tiger vs. Rory in Sunday Showdown
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Who's No. 1? It may officially be Luke Donald, but that's up for much debate until he performs in a major.
In the court of public opinion, the answer to that question may await in the final round, when the matchup everyone's been waiting for takes place.
Indeed, the stage is set for a Tiger Woods vs. Rory McIlroy final pairing.
These two players entered the tournament neck and neck for second and third in the world, and it would be fitting if they could get a chance to square off head-to-head on Sunday.
An entire round still has to be played, but this is the best chance the game of golf has had at getting Tiger and Rory in the same group. It's in the year's final, typically less-exciting major at that.
According to the AccuWeather forecast, the sun will be shining on Sunday afternoon in Kiawah Island moreso than in Round 3, where there is a chance of thunderstroms.
Mother Nature has a way of changing her mind, though, so it remains to be seen just how much of a factor the elements will play.
One thing is certain, though, the wind and triple-digit heat indexes will still be a reality no matter what.
If Tiger and Rory manage to find their way to the last starting time, it will be a tournament for the ages no matter what happens.
Come on, golf gods. Is it too much to ask?
Will Tiger Win?
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Tiger Woods will be in position to pounce on yet another golden opportunity to capture major No. 15.
I predict he will have to negotiate Rory McIlroy in the final group some way, somehow, but neither of them will win.
McIlroy can't putt consistently enough at this point to ultimately hoist the Wanamaker Trophy, and Tiger's lack of distance control on his wedges is going to let him down in the end.
Going along with the comeback trend of this season, a certain flashy, flamboyant and perhaps irrationally-confident-at-times Englishman will emerge as the victor.
That's right. Ian Poulter, who currently sits just one stroke off the lead at three-under par, will win the 2012 PGA Championship.
A gritty player who proved his worth as a Team Europe Ryder Cup captain's pick in 2008, Poulter can manufacture pars with the best of them. He also finished runner-up in that year's British Open at Royal Birkdale, where conditions were horrendous coming down the stretch.
Additionally, Poulter won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in 2010. That put him at No. 5 in the world rankings at the time.
The near-miss at the Claret Jug and consistent match-play prowess will pay off. Poulter will have enough to draw on in the swirling, literal pressure-cooker at Kiawah Island to finally win his first major.