Tiger Woods has to play the U.S. Open patiently and surgically if he wants to capture his first major title in five years.
He will have to do this because the course is not set up to Tiger's strengths.
This year's U.S. Open heads to the East Course of the Merion Golf Club for a par-70 test that is just shy of 7,000 yards. Right off the bat, those numbers tell us the course is not ideal for Tiger.
When Woods is rolling, he is dominating the par fives. Obviously, at par 70, there are only two par fives at Merion. When you consider that it is relatively short and Tiger's natural strengths are more suitable for long courses, it's clear that Tiger has to bring his A game.
Woods has never played here, so we don't have history to go on.
However, if there is one constant in the U.S. Open, it is that it puts a premium on accuracy. The legendary U.S. Open rough makes landing off the fairway a dangerous proposition.
The last major he won was the U.S. Open, but he was 21st last year and had been playing excellent leading up to it.
Here is what Tiger needs to do to tame Merion and the field in order to improve on that result and capture major No. 15.
*All stats via PGATour.com.
As we were just talking about, hitting fairways will be vitally important, and as well as Tiger has been playing this year, his accuracy off the tee has been terrible. He's hitting just 57.7 percent of his fairways—good for 129th on the Tour.
With the tight fairways of Merion, Tiger will be doomed if he tries to hit his driver too often. Instead, he's going to have to opt for the fairway woods to gain accuracy.
This is what he did for the majority of his Players Championship triumph, where he hit 67.9 percent of his fairways.
In order to do this, Tiger will have to be striking his irons well. This will give him the confidence to ditch a little distance off the tee.
Be Dialed in with the Wedge
Tiger has been drilling his wedges this year. His distance control has been outstanding, and it's set him up for many a birdie. He is going to have to do this at Merion because birdie opportunities will be few and far between.
With Tiger playing safe off the tee, he will have longer irons into the green. While he's been excellent with the long irons, it will be hard to find many birdies going that route.
So, when he does have opportunities to use his wedge, he has to take advantage of them.
Tiger is 13th in distance to the pin on shots from 100-125 yards out, but he is just 105th in shots from 75-100 yards out. He is going to have to be deadly with shots from that distance.
Master the Flat Iron
You can say putting is key for every golfer in every tournament. This is especially true at the U.S. Open. The greens are going to be fast, which makes it easy to throw away strokes on the green.
Where will Tiger finish the U.S. Open?
Luckily for Tiger, he just needs to keep putting like he has been. Tiger leads the Tour at 1.259 strokes gained-putting.
He has yet to have a tournament this year where he finished a negative mark in strokes gained-putting.
However, his putting has been dipping. He hit a season-high 2.798 mark at Bay Hill. He finished the Players at .445.
If he putts anywhere near the Bay Hill mark, he will be nearly impossible to beat, but he also has to make sure he doesn't let his dip continue.