Earlier this week, Tiger Woods claimed that he expects to win the British Open, which kicks off Thursday at Royal Liverpool.
Given that Woods is still settling in after back surgery – and given that he hasn’t won a major in more than 2,200 days – we have to ask: Is Woods just trying to convince himself that he can win, or does he actually believe that he will?
“I think when you’re that elite of an athlete and when you’ve been on top for so long, I think you still believe it – even after it’s not really factual anymore,” CBSSports.com golf writer Kyle Porter said on The Morning Show. “He hasn’t won a major in six years. For us fans who like to see him dominate and win majors, I think we’re having a hard time accepting it. But I still believe he thinks he can win. I think for him it’s about whether or not he believes he can hit his driver. It’s all about scoring on the par-5. Tiger was 14-under on the par-5s on this course in 2006 when he won. So I don’t know if he believes he can hit his driver – because I think that’s what he’s going to have to do this week – but I do think he actually believes that he can win.”
Whether he does or doesn’t depends, at least in part, on his back. Is Woods back to 100 percent? Is he pain free?
“I think he feels 95 percent,” Porter said. “For him, you get to a place where, when you’re swinging, you don’t know if it’s going to hurt or not, and it doesn’t hurt all the time – and that’s almost worse because you’re (a little) hesitant. It’s just not a good place to be. I think the biggest thing for him is (being) able to go out and swing and go hard at the ball and not feel any pain. That’s the biggest thing I was looking for in his return at Congressional a few weeks ago. I think he’s there right now.”
So aside from Woods – and aside from Phil Mickelson – which golfer should we tune in to see this week? Is there a particular player whose game benefits from the course or its conditions?
“I think Rickie Fowler. I really do,” Porter said. “He’s played really well at the British Open in the past. He’s got a couple top 10s there. Obviously he played great at the U.S. Open. If it weren’t for Martin Kaymer, he would’ve been in a playoff. And he played at the Scottish Open last week and played pretty well.”
Fowler, 25, finished tied for eighth at Royal Aberdeen, placing ahead of Mickelson and Rory McIlroy, among others.
“He likes this kind of weather,” Porter said of Fowler. “He’s the guy who has the ability to kind of hit that low ball, that kind of stinger shot that Tiger made famous in the early 2000s. If he can putt well, which has kind of been his nemesis in the past, I think he can score (well) and win the tournament.”