I'm calling my shot: Tiger Woods will win the 2013 U.S. Open at the Merion Golf Club this weekend, putting an end to a five-year major championship drought.
Woods has been building toward this moment for the past couple of years, steadily improving his overall game. His mindset is better, perhaps, than it's ever been, and his focus is as crystallized as we've ever seen.
When asked about a photo of Ben Hogan's iconic 1-iron back in 1950 in a recent press conference, Woods responded with a quip that clearly illustrates where his mind is at, per Jason Sobel of the Golf Channel:
Tiger Woods on the iconic Ben Hogan 1-iron photo from 1950: "It's a great photo. It would have been just an alright photo if he didn't win."— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) June 11, 2013
He's won seven PGA Tour events since the start of the 2012 season and four tournaments already this season. Furthermore, Woods has come dangerously close to winning two of the last three major championships—a third-place finish at the 2012 Open Championship and his fourth-place finish at Augusta in April.
Back as the clear lead dog atop the PGA Tour hierarchy, he's rightfully the heavy favorite to win every tournament once again—just as it was when he was winning majors left and right.
When asked about whether or not it was easier to win majors when he was in the midst of his 14 for 46 streak, Woods replied (via Sobel), “No. It wasn't ever easy."
Woods sure used to make it look easy, but along with his own dominance, the PGA Tour wasn't quite as loaded with talent from top to bottom in those days as it is now. There are new guys coming on to the tour every year now with the chops to win any tournament.
Will Woods win the 2013 U.S. Open?
That said, Woods is undeniably the top golfer in the world again.
Matt Kuchar, with two wins, is the only golfer on tour besides Tiger with more than one win. Woods has won four of his eight PGA events this year, looking extremely Tiger-like in the process.
Before his disappointing finish in the gusty conditions at the Memorial two weeks ago, Woods had won three of four tournaments—his only non-win coming at the Masters, when he finished in fourth place.
After watching Woods at the Cadillac Championship in March, Steve Stricker, who finished second to Woods in the tournament, commented about what he saw from Woods, per ESPN's Bob Harig:
His attitude and what I saw this week and his belief in himself again looks very similar to the early 2000s or you can pick any year, I guess, when he was playing great. He just seems in a better place mentally to me. Seems to be having fun. Seems to have a lot of confidence in himself and his game.
It's this confidence, combined with Woods' laser-like focus, that will prove more valuable to Woods at Merion than his excellence on the course.
Woods is due.
He's on top of his game, has the right mindset and is playing with the confidence to win a major championship once again.
In the long run, history will look back at his five-year drought as nothing more than a speed bump. By the time Woods is finished, he'll have passed up Jack Nicklaus' 18-major record to set a new standard for excellence in major tournaments.
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