Does Liberty National Actually Suit Tiger Woods' Game?

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistAugust 24, 2013

Aug 23, 2013; Jersey City, NJ, USA; Tiger Woods looks on at the 14th hole during the second round of The Barclays at Liberty National Golf Course. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Tiger Woods made no secret of his dislike for Liberty National back in 2009 when the Barclays first visited this former New Jersey landfill turned swanky Wall Street hangout.

While speaking to reporters after his first ever round at Liberty National, Woods described the course as “interesting.” When probed further as to whether or not the course was interesting in a good way, Woods just smiled and again said, “It’s interesting.”

That was, of course, Woods speak for “I hate this place.”

According to sports writer Ian O’Connor, Woods also told Sanjay Jha—one of the three amateurs that played with Woods during his Wednesday Pro-Am round back in 2009—that Woods said “Maybe Tom did this course before his eye operation.” The “Tom” Woods was referring to was Tom Kite, who had co-designed Liberty National along with Bob Cupp.

Throughout his career, Woods has typically not performed well at venues he doesn’t like. This is the main reason why Woods’ PGA Tour schedule looks almost identical from year-to-year. Woods loads his schedule with courses that suit his game—such as Torrey Pines, Doral, Firestone and Bay Hill—and leaves off courses he has never been fond of.

This is also more than likely the main reason why Woods decided to skip the first ever FedEx Cup event at Westchester Country Club—a highly respected classical American golf course—back in 2007. Woods was coming off of his PGA Championship victory at Southern Hills in the grueling heat, which he blamed for his absence at the 2007 Barclays. Despite desperate pleas by the PGA Tour and their sponsors to change Woods’ mind, Woods would not budge on the matter.

Most insiders realized that Woods’ decision to skip the 2007 Barclays had more to do with his dislike of Westchester Country Club than his PGA Championship hangover.

"I thought Westchester was a quirky golf course with weird angles," Woods said earlier this year at Merion. "I never got a really good feel for that golf course. I played there as an amateur in the Buick and didn't really do well and just really didn't suit my eye."

But, Liberty National has been a bit different for Woods. Liberty National has been a rare occurrence where Woods has performed well on a course he does not like.

Back in 2009, Woods tied for second at Liberty National, where he narrowly missed a birdie putt on the 72nd hole that would have forced a playoff with Heath Slocum.

Through the first 36 holes this week, Woods is six-under par and tied for eighth while fighting through a sore back and neck he claims came about as result of a “soft bed” in his hotel room, although most have pretty much concluded this injury is actually a continuation of the back injury Woods suffered two weeks ago during the final round of the PGA Championship.

In six rounds at Liberty National, Woods is a total of 14-under par and has failed to break par during a single round just once.

Back in 2009, Woods carded just six bogeys all week, and he opened this week’s tournament with a bogey-free round of 67, although he did card three bogeys during round two which he combined with five birdies for a two-under par score of 68.

Woods’ game has never travelled particularly well to New York, where he has just one win in the New York/New Jersey area which came at the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage, or to the entire Northeastern part of the United States for that matter. Woods has won just twice in 24 career events in the Northeastern part of the United States, which is an eight percent winning percentage versus a career winning percentage of around 25 percent.

However, most PGA Tour events played in the Northeastern portion of the United States are played at classical American golf course such as Westchester Country Club, Merion, Baltusrol, Ridgewood and Winged Foot.

Liberty National is different though. Liberty National opened for play in 2006 and is far from a classic American design. Liberty National has a completely manufactured feel to it, which is probably unavoidable when you spend $250 million to build a golf course on a former toxic landfill.

Woods will head into the final 36 holes just five strokes off of Matt Kuchar’s lead. In two appearances at Liberty National, Woods has been right in the mix both times and he has an excellent chance to capture his sixth win of the season this week.

So, although Woods may not like Liberty National, and he has never performed particularly well in the New York/New Jersey area, this former toxic waste dump actually seems to fit Woods’ game.